The day Manchester United died

Malcolm Glazer seems to have won his bid to buy Manchester United. As the title of this post suggests, I can’t help but feeling that this signals the death of the football club I’ve supported for over 10 years. For many, Man United itself represents the worst side of rampant football commercialism … but that’s to forget that the United fans have had an uneasy relationship with this side of the operation. What has been clear about the recent financial management of the club, though is that as a general principle they have built upon the success of the team and established foundations for the club to remain financially viable for a long time, regardless of the present trends in football finance.

The fact is that United were one of the few clubs in recent years that have been in a position to make significant investments in top players whilst not threatening their existence or assets. The reckless summer spending of Real Madrid forced the club into debt and to have to sell off their Training ground to the Madrid City Council to stop themselves going under. Man United have paid some exorbitant transfer fees, but not to the same level of Madrid, whilst they have had the funds to do so without placing the long-term existence of the club in jeopardy … as we saw in the demise of Leeds United.

So, Manchester United have gone from being the richest club in the world, almost guaranteed long-term financial stability because of a measured and controlled approach, to being a club owned by a man whose interest is purely business … A man who was fundamentally unable to raise the money to fund the deal and will be borrowing against the club to bankroll the takeover. If Glazer achieves more than 75% control, then United will be counted as a personal asset and should the tycoon get into debt, who knows what could happen to the club? Glazer has tried to sweeten the deal with the promise of a £20 million transfer kitty, but this will again be with borrowed money and is in the same realm as what United are used to having per season, if not less. Malcolm Glazer is no Roman Abramovich … He’s not bankrolling the purchase and then flooding the club with his own money. He’s coming in on borrowed money and placing a financially healthy club in serious hazard … From domination to debt …

It was a telling moment when the club crest was altered from displaying “Manchester United Football Club” to just “Manchester United” … All tied up with the marketing of the Man U brand image … Yet again off the field shenanigans show where the priorities of some in the management of the club. If United were to have a bad season and miss out on Champions League qualification, they could end up going the same way as the United from over the Pennines. The 2004/05 season hasn’t given us a lot to shout about but at least the future looked bright with many young stars promising a very exciting team in the years to come. People often point to the success of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after Glazer took them over, but since their single Superbowl win, they have achieved very little. Manchester United have an even greater height to potentially fall from! What the club should be doing is to see how the present financial strength can support greater success on the field, making us competitive in the transfer market, investing in youth development and continuing to lay the foundations of long-term financial stability.

Instead Malcolm Glazer is putting a great Football Club with a proud tradition in tremendous jeopardy. The sun may be shining brightly outside, but it’s a very dark day in Manchester today.

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