United’s worst Premier League finish in 2013-14 meant they were absent from Europe’s blue-riband club competition this year, giving further ammunition to critics of the Glazer family who bought the club 10 years ago.

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Marking the anniversary of the Glazers’ takeover of England’s biggest club, the Independent Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) this week issued a statement accusing the Americans of “ownership crime” saying they had saddled the club with debt.

However, Arnold said the owners’ “long-term vision” meant the three-times European champions remained strong, on and off the pitch, and were still competing for the world’s top players.

“Yesterday was the 10-year anniversary of the our current owners and that long-term approach they’ve taken, the vision they’ve shown and the decisions they’ve made have borne out on and off the pitch and they’ve been strong,” Arnold said at the Daily Telegraph Business of Sport forum in London.

“(MUST) would have their view. I wouldn’t agree with it.

“It’s a unique position to be in, the way that fans feel about a club and that is at the heart of everything we do.

You can’t take that for granted.”

United are virtually assured a top-four finish in the Premier League, after slipping to seventh last season, meaning a return to the Champions League, albeit probably via a playoff.

Arnold said the real pain of not rubbing shoulders with the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich was felt by the players and fans rather than the club’s bean counters.

“Whatever you call the competition, not being at the top table that you can be in is a matter of pride, it’s where the players want to play, it’s what the fans want to see, not being there hurts, it’s a key achievement milestone for us.

“In taking the long-term vision, structuring the business to be profitable and having a diversified income stream, it’s a much smaller number than people expect in how it’s affected our profitability and our ability to compete economically for the best players.

“But the fact we manage our finances to make sure that in the long term we are sustainable and solid doesn’t take away from the fact that not being in it was really painful.

“We have only had a one-year experiment and it’s not our plan to make it a longer one so dear God let’s not try that experiment again!”

United will announce their third quarter earnings on Thursday.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Toby Davis)