It could be the end of the road for one of football’s most controversial ownership groups in the Glazer Family. Let’s revisit how we got here, and look ahead to what could lie in the future for Manchester United.
Even with the World Cup on, Manchester United cannot stay out of the news. However, this time fans might actually have something to celebrate. After a tenuous 17-year run at the helm of United, the Glazer family has indicated that it is open to selling the club.
The Glazer Family
Malcolm Glazer hasn’t been able to escape controversy since he became the primary owner of Manchester United in 2005. He took over the club through a leveraged buyout, which essentially means he used borrowed money to buy the team, then transferred the debt onto the team itself. As you could imagine, United fans didn’t take too kindly to a new American owner who put their club in millions of dollars in debt for the first time since 1931.
In the 17 years since, despite the club’s value skyrocketing, the Glazers haven’t gotten rid of the debt, which reportedly sits at over $600 million.
To make matters worse, while the debt remains, the Glazer family takes out dividends using the club’s money twice a year. The owners have taken out over £150 million worth of dividends in the last seven years (although they won’t be taking them for 2023). To fans that was just adding insult to injury.
The owners were willing to take money out of the club while not putting any back in, which to United fans across the globe is unacceptable. In a period where the neighbors grow more successful by the day, and bitter rivals Liverpool have risen from the ashes, United needed its owners to invest and care about the club. Instead all they received was negligence and a football structure that should be considered a mockery.
And while the Glazers will point to the aforementioned value increase and record earnings as proof of a successful tenure, one thing they cannot say during their reign over Man United is that they were loved by fans. Since day one, the fans have been against the American family, in addition to former players as well. David Beckham walking onto the Old Trafford pitch in 2010 with the famous gold and green scarf — a symbol of dissent towards the Glazer ownership — is a memorable moment for many United fans.
The Decay of Old Trafford
Let’s be real though, debt alone isn’t enough to turn the majority of a fanbase against an ownership group. Chances are, your favorite football club is in debt too. Perhaps the heaviest straw on the camel’s back is the way the club owners have treated United’s hallowed ground, Old Trafford.
Once upon a time Old Trafford used to be the model stadium. Nearly every club wanted a ground like it — modern, aesthetically pleasing, with fortress-like qualities. Now the “Theatre Of Dreams” has become one of nightmares.
The roofs have not been fixed as it leaks with heavy rainfall. The seats have barely been refurbished, and technologically speaking the stadium is severely lacking. It has gotten to the point where the stadium has been dubbed as “Old Toilet” by United and rival fans.
If a new ownership group does come in, its first order of business is the renovation and modernization of Old Trafford.
What Can New Owners Bring?
The prospect of new owners should excite Manchester United fans across the world. For the local fans, new owners means a renovation of all the facilities that the club has. That includes Old Trafford, the training ground, the academy facilities, and hopefully the construction of a facility solely for the women’s team.
The treatment of the women’s team off the pitch has been terrible by club management. It should be one of the first things addressed.
As for the higher ups in the front office, new owners should realistically mean the end of the road for the current board members of Manchester United. A new ownership group will likely want its own people and a complete revamp of the structure. That should be looked at as nothing but a positive from a United perspective. The current board and anyone associated with it for the last decade are a huge reason for the massive decline of the football club. A solid football structure is the foundation for success on the football pitch. That ultimately needs to be priority number one for any potential new owners.
Team revenue has slightly declined over the last few years, and a new influx of cash would be paramount to revamping a somewhat stale squad. The arms race of modern football has yet to slow down.
What Do the Fans Want?
The joy of United fans when the rumors spread of a potential sale was felt all over social media. Fans know the reason for the club’s decline and the chance to get rid of it has made them optimistic about the future.
However, there has always been the question of who are some potential owners that United fans would accept? Would they be open to another American ownership group at the club? Sir Jim Ratcliffe is a favorite amongst supporters as he is a childhood fan of the team and has been interested in buying the club for years. Would the fans accept oil money after mocking Manchester City after their takeover?
Whoever the new owner may be, the most important thing for fans is ambition and plan.
Who Can Buy United?
There are some who are against oil money due to the potential sportswashing that might happen. Ultimately, at the price the Glazers demand, which to various reports is anywhere between £6-9 billion, there are very few who can afford that kind of purchase. You have the big tech companies like Apple or Amazon, or investors in Dubai whose interests have been piqued according to reports.
A sale is not imminent, but the quicker it happens the better it is for everyone. United fans can put this reign behind them and look to a promising future. One that hopefully brings the success that made Manchester United a footballing powerhouse in the first place.