LONDON – Manchester United chief executive David Gill dismissed critics of the Glazer family on Tuesday and insisted that the Premier League club isn't negatively affected by debts of more than 500 million pounds ($812 million).
Gill defended the Glazers, who bought United in 2005 and spend 45 million ($72 million) pounds annually in interest payments, at a British parliamentary inquiry into English soccer.
Groups including the Manchester United Supporters Trust have intensified protests against the Glazers in the last year amid concerns that the debt is preventing manager Alex Ferguson from revamping an aging team.
"They are at war with the owners," Gill told the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee. "We are not going to open a dialogue. ... If we are going to be castigated for not speaking to one or two groups who have particular clear agendas, then so be it. We will take the castigation."
Before United was sold to the Glazers, Gill opposed the takeover, saying in 2004 that "the level of debt coupled with their business plan meant that it was an unattractive proposal."
The Glazers have never given an interview about their long-term plans for United, which is in first place in the league.
Gill said the owners have delegated responsibilities to talk to the fans to himself and Ferguson, but dodged a question from the committee about the manager's current refusal to talk to any media outlets, including United's own television channel.
Giving evidence at the same hearing on Tuesday, Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn questioned whether opposition to the Glazers is heightened by their silence.
"People don't know how the Glazers actually feel deep down in their hearts about when a referee makes a bad decision," said Quinn, whose club is owned by American businessman Ellis Short. "Do they go home really fed up after a game, like we all do? Or are they taking a call from the golf course wondering how the team got on today?"
Gill responded by saying that the Glazers were disappointed by losses to Liverpool and Chelsea in the last week.
Stoke chairman Peter Coates also appeared at the inquiry.
Paul Farrelly, a Labour Party legislator, also accused Gill of "rewarding bad behavior" by handing United forward Wayne Rooney a contract worth a reported 250,000 pounds ($404,000) per week.
"I do not think that is particularly outrageous," Gill responded. "Rooney is a great player, both for this country and for Manchester United. Role models as players — there are examples of players being inappropriate, I wouldn't disagree with that. But at the same time he is there, we want to keep him."
Rooney threatened to leave United in October just weeks after being accused of cheating on his then-pregnant wife with a prostitute.
Gill said Rooney's salary demands haven't had an effect when negotiating new deals with other players. Midfielders Darren Fletcher and Michael Carrick signed contract extensions last week.
"The impact of what we pay Wayne — and they know that — didn't come up," Gill said.
Gill said one of the biggest issues facing United is who will replace Ferguson when the 69-year-old Scot retires.