By your friends be known…
In 2005, when very powerful people at Manchester United and equally powerful people governing the English and European game said and did fuck all to stop Malcolm Glazer plunging our beloved football club into perilous amounts of debt, I’ll confess that the financial details went over my head a bit. I didn’t like that those twats had taken over and I especially didn’t like GMP wielding their batons outside Old Trafford as we clinged to and eventually let go of all hope. But the ins and outs of the finances escaped me and instead I made do with people who I love and respect, who did know the ins and outs, telling me it was very bad.
I am not alone in not quite understanding the absolute detail but very much knowing that our football club is on the brink of financial disaster. There are tens of fucking thousands of us. There are however a greater number – a much, much greater number – who simply don’t know or don’t care about the finances of our once-envied football club because the off-the-pitch Manchester United either doesn’t really matter that much to them. Or, of course, they’re happy that the club has won some trophies and reached some big finals since 2005 and are prepared to ignore the blatantly obvious.
I failed GCSE maths twice but the announcement of the IPO once-in-a-lifetime share offer this past week or so has been everything to me that 13 years in maths classes wasn’t. In fact it may well turn out to be a blessing for all of us – maths divs like me, those who hate Glazer but don’t quite grasp all the financial detail, wise Reds who knew this was coming and, maybe, those who have until now turned a blind eye (barring buying a green and gold scarf from a Manchester swag man) to the crippling, parasitic hold that the Glazers have on MUFC. A blessing that is if it leads to a change of ownership.
It has been a primary school level education in corporate finance. We have learnt that the share offer will raise an estimated £300m. The Glazers will reportedly then take half of that and use it to try build a boat to salvage them from the ocean of non-United-related shit in which they are drowning in the US. It has been spelt out in big, bold crayon letters by the media. The Glazer family’s global business empire is, to put it mildly, struggling. They have loans out on everything and not enough money in the bank to pay the instalments. Are you following this? In non-prospectus speak, ‘invest your money in this business and we will take half and use it to try pay massive debts elsewhere’. What more do you need to know and understand about United’s owners, eh?
Keen to deconstruct this and bring it down to my level, I liken the offer to buying a house but being told I can’t use the upstairs because the previous owners want to stay up there rent free. Surprisingly, Sky News are yet to invite me to go on amd give my insight but for me the finances are suddenly in sharp focus – it is the investors, not the Glazer family, who are being asked to pay Glazer debts. Even for a double GCSE maths failure, that’s not at all attractive. Reds everywhere, regardless of the attention they have thus far given United’s American owners, must now finally see what’s happening and that they need to be driven out of our football club. I only hope it fuels opposition that will eventually become too unbearable for the Glazers and they’ll sell up. It is the crumb of comfort I take from this evidently awful mess. Mind you, it will probably be snuffed out by a unbeaten 8 match start to the season. Bebe will inspire it.
So, we know the Glazers are at it but we have also been told by countless media outlets that a certain Knight of the Realm may stand to make millions from the share offer thingy wotsit that I don’t quite understand. Of course, nothing has been confirmed and we should assume it never will be made public, but if reports are to be believed the man who has gone out of his way to defend the owners of Manchester United at every turn, along with the CEO who said debt was the road to ruin but who has since spent years arse-kissing the family that have loaded the club with debt, may apparently make millions. As United fan and financial egghead Andy Green (the bloke who did go on Sky News to deconstruct the financial fuckwittery of it all) succinctly put it “I think we now know why Sir Alex is so in favour of the Glazers”. It certainly invites us to have a guess.
There is after all no defence of the Glazers that couldn’t be rubbished by a small child. They’re bad for the club, they’re bleeding it dry and they’re they reason why, if they’re left unchallenged, Manchester United faces many years of struggles which could match those of Leeds United or even Rangers. Ferguson supports that regime. He can apparently see no reason why many tens of thousands of United fans oppose that regime. It is rumoured that he may make millions from what that regime is doing with our football club. And with all of that in mind, it’s no wonder that more and more Reds I speak to are divorcing their feelings about United’s many, many great seasons following a Ferguson-led Manchester United and the Glazer-ravaged Manchester United over which that same “great man” presides. He’s losing credibility fast, regardless of what success he’s brought the club.
We frequently hear during United’s many transfer sagas or when high profile players leave that no man is bigger than the club and yet many Reds don’t apply that same rule to Ferguson. Get your head out of the sand. It doesn’t matter that he has won so much with United. That was in the past. He supports the Glazers and the Glazers are bad for United. For a growing number of Reds, it’s no longer acceptable to weigh up United’s success under Ferguson versus what he has said and done to support the Glazer ownership farce and conclude that a couple of decades of success are more important that over 130 years of history. There’s absolutely no contest, Sir.
No trophies in the past compensate for the strife United will face in the future under their ownership and it’s illogical that people use Ferguson’s successes as a reason to turn a blind eye to his support of those parasites. They’re killing United and yet he offers them a ringing endorsement whilst criticising United fans who fear for the club’s future. Yes, I am grateful for all those wonderful, joyous nights that would not have happened had Ferguson not been at the club. They were some of the most special days and nights of our collective lives and they will never be matched. But that does not make Ferguson immune from criticism, especially when it comes to them, nor does he have the right to dismiss United fans who see the Glazer model for what it is.
You could be the world’s greatest United fan. You could have been to every game home and away for thirty years. You could sort fellow Reds out with tickets, drive them to games, sort flights out, give West Ham a slap when they try and bully people outside Upton Park, get me Shelley from the ticket office’s number or play an active role in driving the support ownership agenda at MUFC. You could be the sort of United fan that every other United fan would want to be mates with… but if you took a paving stone into the upper tier of the Stretford End and dropped it on the family stand you’d still be a substantial cunt and there wouldn’t be anyone on the news saying “yeah, but he sorted me out for the derby the other year”.
Anyway, for everything you did pre-spring 2005, thanks Alec.