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It is rare to see fans of a successful club dislike the owners on a large scale but that’s the exact situation at Manchester United. Plenty of fans believe that United’s success under the Glazers is inspite of the American owners who left the club in a mountain of debt after the takeover and yet, attempts to displace them have been futile. Rwiddhi Charaborty has his say on the matter.


Eight miles north of Old Trafford lies Moston, a typical working class neighbourhood, reminiscent of the golden old guard of Mancunia, where the hustle and bustle of the corporate machine wouldn’t be able to affect the common man’s bread and butter—Football.

In Moston lies Broadhurst Park, and in Broadhurst Park lies a stadium of a capacity of a meager 5000 supporters. This is the stadium of FC United of Manchester. Over the last 10 years, this club has moved to within two divisions of the English Football League.

Glazers Man United 2015

 

FC United of Manchester has got nothing to do with the club most of us have come to love. This is a rebel club, created by the people of the community, to get a feel of the good old days, when football wasn’t expensive, and ticket prices weren’t sky high in view of clearing debts. This gives us a good context to commemorate the 10 year anniversary of one of the most controversial, chaotic corporate takeovers in modern football history.

May 12th, 2005.

Sir Alex Ferguson prepares for the final Premier League game against Southampton, and a FA Cup final the weekend after. United are all set to finish third, behind Mourinho’s Chelsea and Wenger’s Arsenal, when Sir Alex gets his first shock.

John Obi Mikel, the frightfully talented midfielder from Norway’s Lyn Oslo, set to join United, chooses Chelsea instead, which meant his flight landed in London, and not Manchester. This was however, nothing compared to what Sir Alex would be shortly privy too.

The Glazer family, which previously held around 30% stake at the club, were set to buy the 28.7% PLC owned by the Irish race tycoons, John Magnier and J.P. McManus. The move, quite inevitably, raised a furor. The misty air of Old Trafford would shortly be subject to the raucous cries of “United, United not for sale”, and a sudden boom in demand for the famous green and gold scarves, the colour United were famous for once they started out as Newton Heath.

The protests were understandable. Such a huge money takeover, worth around £800 million, meant that United would be sunk into mountains of debt. The future looked dark, and quite understandably, the fans didn’t like it one bit. Ticket prices were raised. Football wasn’t the working class’ game anymore. Market uncertainty meant that United sunk further and further into debt, recording an infamous £790 million in 2010, up from an initial £558.9 million.

The Glazers would have to be escorted in tight security whenever they used to visit Old Trafford. That’s pretty ironic, since documents and financial law did prove they were the owners of the club. The fans just didn’t get along with their ideals. They wouldn’t accept the fact that the club they’d supported throughout their lives, would turn into a ruthless corporate entity, paying no heed to the sentiments of the people who are the actual heart and soul of the club—the fans.

All this, however, is in the past. Doomsday hasn’t arrived at Old Trafford. The club’s performance off the field has been excellent, courtesy an enviable corporate structure. United has performed well in the New York Stock Exchange. United has consistently signed record sponsorship deals with other corporate giants, the most recent being a record breaking kit deal with Adidas. One also cannot forget the quite satisfied face of the starting 11, including club captain Wayne Rooney, at the headquarters of General Motors, where the tie up with Chevrolet was announced.

Manchester United is now more of a brand than just a football club. It has recently been named as the world’s first “billion dollar football brand”, trumping the likes of Bayern Munchen, Barcelona, and Real Madrid. As of 2015, United’s debt stands at £385 million, and is expected to fall sharply, if and when Louis Van Gaal’s side qualify for the Champions League.

The reduction in debt, coupled with Sir Alex’s relatively low key spending in the transfer windows over the years as compared to his immediate rivals, has quite ingeniously allowed to club to fill its coffers, thus allowing it to spend huge amounts during the transition period, kicked off by Sir Alex’s retirement. This explains the £150 million spending spree last summer and an expected £200 million transfer budget this time around.

One must face the facts. Sir Alex supported the Glazers for a reason, and the reason was he believed the Glazers could bring financial security to the club. Many supporters haven’t forgiven Sir Alex for his support, but a bunch of titles in the last ten years, including a Champions League, and two Champions League finals, cannot be argued against.

The Premier League’s new record breaking broadcasting deal with Sky Sports, worth almost £5 billion, will also ensure United don’t put too much stress on their financial reserves.

The scarves have started to disappear. The fans have quite reluctantly started to believe, that the Glazers have a plan for a stable future. For all the non-believers, there’s always FC United of Manchester in Broadhurst Park to return to. Yet for many, there’s only one heaven: Old Trafford.


Written by Rwiddhi Chakraborty

Rwiddhi Chakraborty

Rwiddhi Chakraborty

Ardent supporter of Manchester United. Comfortable with writing on other teams. Worked for a blog called footballfornuts.wordpress before.
Rwiddhi Chakraborty

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