• Wed
  • Sep 24, 2014
  • Updated: 1:48am
Column
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 April, 2014, 9:29pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 April, 2014, 9:29pm

United fans will use any stick to beat the Glazers

The manner of David Moyes' sacking was said to lack 'class', but too many are blind to what American owners have done

BIO

Tim Noonan has been crafting uniquely provocative columns for the SCMP and SMP for more than a decade. A native of Canada, he has over 20 years’ experience in Asia and has been a regular contributor to a number of prominent publications, including Time magazine, Forbes, The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune and The Independent.
 

In case you are wondering, class and dignity are still integral values for a few corporate monoliths and one of those, apparently, is Manchester United.

However, under the ownership, these past nine years, of the Malcolm Glazer family of Palm Beach, Florida, those lofty standards appear to be slipping.

When United mercifully relieved manager David Moyes of his position last week after only 10 months on the job, they did it in a manner that was predictably upsetting to the vice chairman of Manchester United Supporters Trust, Sean Bones.

According to United's CEO Ed Woodward, over that time the Glazers backed Ferguson 'on every single player purchase'
Tim Noonan

News of Moyes' sacking was leaked to a few journos a day before it was made official by the club, which happens all the time in sports but apparently not at United.

"Manchester United has a lot of style and class and we don't do things that way and to me this is typical behaviour of the Glazer family," Bones told the British media.

"We do things with style, class and dignity." United is having by far its worse year in memory and did not qualify for next season's European Champions League for the first time in 20 years.

And while Bones will not absolve Moyes completely of blame, he knows who is truly at fault. "Before they took over we were the No 1 club in the world," he said, "and now we are fourth and that has to change."

Actually, as United are now a mere seventh place in the English Premier League (EPL), fourth best in the world would seem like a heavy dose of wishful thinking right about now.

Make no mistake, though: Manchester United are still the most famous and, arguably, the most popular sports team in the world, which is why it is just as easy to root against them as it is to root for them. It goes with the territory.

Under the stewardship of Sir Alex Ferguson for 27 years, they became the gold standard in English football, winning 13 of the past 21 EPL titles. Their cachet internationally became immeasurable.

In 2005, the Glazers, who have owned the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers since 1995, decided they wanted football teams on both sides of the Atlantic and bought United in a dubiously leveraged transaction that saw them assume a big load of debt.

Mind you, there was nothing illegal about the deal and the EPL happily signed off on it as well.

But the Glazers are a dispassionate lot who care little about United's glorious 130-plus year history. And while the club claims to have 657 million fans worldwide, the simple truth is the Glazers bought the fans' beloved team with the sole intention of making money off it.

According to The Wall Street Journal, team revenue has nearly doubled since the Glazers took over thanks to a number of huge corporate licensing deals, and a 2012 public offering of 10 per cent of the club has seen United shares climb 34 per cent to US$18.78, increasing the worth of the franchise to US$3.1 billion, more than twice what the family paid in 2005.

"But look at Manchester City," said Bones, "their owners are pumping money into that team. The Glazers haven't invested in United at the correct times."

Cross-town rivals City have been spending like sailors on shore leave since they were bought by a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family and their bottomless petroleum wealth in 2008.

However, in the eight seasons since the Glazers bought United, the team have won five league championships. In the five seasons since City have been swimming in oil money, they have won one title.

According to United's CEO Ed Woodward, over that time the Glazers backed Ferguson "on every single player purchase he wanted to go after".

For the Glazers, Ferguson was an inherited luxury. He was simply the best manager in the history of professional football and they knew it.

Not surprisingly, they were happy to let Ferguson hand pick his successor, Everton manager and fellow Scot Moyes. But not even for a millisecond did Moyes look right as the manager of Manchester United.

It's a mammoth position that basically demands presence and swagger and Moyes has neither. He was a very good tactician who managed to keep Everton from relegation for 11 years despite a shoestring budget.

But this is his singular accomplishment in England because there are no trophies in his managerial cabinet. Not one.

In hindsight, his hiring was a disaster and the blame for it falls primarily on the sainted Ferguson. But not among the stylish, classy and dignified followers of the club.

For them, it's all down to the greedy Glazers - the interloping Yanks who have, um, ruined this great team.

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