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Friday, May 13, 2005

Troubled times at Manchester United

"In a dark, dark wood, there was a dark, dark house and in that dark, dark house..."

So begins a book from my childhood. But as I write - I feel the rhythm of those words echoing deafeningly in my ears as I assess the state of affairs at Old Trafford.

Manchester United fans have endured a dark, dark week, which has followed a dark, dark couple of months which has resulted in a very dark, dark season - with the ominous figure of Malcolm Glazer blocking out most of the light.

The acceptance of Glazer's offer for their shares by the Coolmore Mafia will, I'm sure, be a pivotal moment in the history of one of the giant's of English football. I have no doubt that Glazer will now acquire the remaining shares - his relentless pursuit of United seemingly successful.

As has been said by most observers, Glazer is no Roman Abramovic - his offer for United shares being funded largely by debt - debt which United will be saddled with once his takeover is complete. Glazer is a business man and wants to make as much profit from United as possible. Not only will the fans have to cough up to pay the debts back, but United could be the next Leeds - a time bomb just waiting to explode if repayments cant be kept up.

I'm praying that somehow Glazer's bid falls flat - but its time to take stock of what this new era at United will mean in the short term. The efforts of Shareholders United and other supporters groups will , one can only hope, have made clear to Glazer that fans are still a major influence at Old Trafford - and he cannot alienate them if the Manchester United brand is to remain successful. Glazer is also seen as a hero in Tampa where he turned the Tampa Bay Bucaneers from no-hopers to Superbowl winners. Transfer funds will be injected this summer - all United fans will agree that this is much needed. But even as I write, I feel I'm clutching at straws. An enormous sense of foreboding - of imminent danger - is all around me.

Yesterday's events have largely overshadowed a dismal end of season for United on the pitch. Outclassed by an under strength Chelsea, I will never forget the look of disappointment on those few fans who had remained at Old Trafford after the final whistle on Tuesday (however bad the season, the fans should have stayed) mirrored on the faces of the players. But I also saw a hint of determination in the eyes of the players - they know they will perform better next season.

The must perform better next season.


Blogger Skippy said...

If Man United fail to beat Arsenal in the cup, then Everton would have had a more successful season in my view. I think Ferguson must take some blame for this, time and time again he has fielded understrenth teams when playing the likes of Norwich, Westbrom, Palace.

As for the off the field activity, if I were a United fan I would be very concerned.

5/13/2005 11:31 am

Blogger RedsMan said...

No, it has not been anything of a success at the slightest at Old Trafford. Why is a good question, the answer lies in the players and Sir Alex's focus. The flow of the team has been disrupted by some injuries, but I feel it has more to do with the concern of facing Chelsea first game and not matching them. Since then, Sir Alex hasn't managed to exorcise the spectre of Mourinho and continues to fail to do so.

The gauntlet had been thrown when Mourinho defeated Man Utd with Porto. Sir Alex wasn't happy with Porto's display and showed his disgust at the final whistle, remonstrating with Mourinho instead of the customary handshake. That has come like a curse to Sir Alex. Now his noteworthy soldiers (Keane, Scholes, Giggs, Ferdinand) have had little to exert in terms of lifting the team for the title right to the end. Sir Alex will have a good lecture for them come pre-season.

I can't point a finger at any Utd player and say he has been exceptional this season, though I would submit Heinze as their best player. Disappointments definitely in the keepers, Alan Smith, Louis Saha, to name a few. Djemba-Djemba and Kleberson have failed to highlight the midfield as their own, the Cameroon midfielder now moved off to Aston Villa. Christian Ronaldo is similar to Newcastle's Robert, on his good day he can win a match; on a bad day, his distribution can be occasionally wayward. In a nutshell, it has been an off-season for the Red Devils, with their best effort being the double over arch-rivals Arsenal.

As for Malcolm Glazer, one thing for certain the man is very hungry for Man Utd plc. What his exact aims are were he to get his 75% control, I don't know but it's sceptical that he has Utd's best interests at heart. Certainly is keeping quiet out of the media right now. Mr McManus and Mr Magnier seemed prepared to fight tooth and nail with Sir Alex over the issue of agreements regarding a racehorse. Now they've sold their holdings in Utd practically in a whisper.

Utd fans forecast increase of prices in various areas of Utd's marketing, hitting horribly, for one, in the season ticket values. Sir Alex has no intentions of going anywhere, which is grand tidings for the fans. He'll want to overhaul Chelsea and Arsenal for the title again before then. But with Mr Glazer in control, and the two M's precariously in the background, the decision of Sir Alex's future at the club could well be a main talking point at board level very soon.

I wish the very best for the Utd fans, because I certainly wouldn't want it to happen at Anfield.


5/13/2005 8:45 pm

Blogger T said...

Thanks for an excellent article Abdul.

The only thing certain about the Glazer takeover is the uncertainty his presence will have on football in this country.

Personally, I would hate the fact that my club is run by foreigners who have no geniune interest in football.

As Henry Winter said on 5LIVE- football is about dreams not dollars. Glazer is symptomatic of someone in charge of a football club who has his focus solely on the latter.

But his impact on a wider football scale is what really concerns me.

I can't help but feel Glazer will have a negative impact on football in this country. To maximise revenues for Man Utd PLC it is said he will look to break the collective bargaining TV agreements.

This means the already skewed level-playing field between clubs in this country will be torn apart. The consequent gap between rich and poor [already great] will make the Premiership so uncompetitive that the idea of a breakaway European super league will gain in momentum.

Is this Glazer's end-game?

This is my nightmare.

I hope the FA are ready to counter any of Glazer's plans that are negative for competitive football in this country.

5/14/2005 12:05 pm

Blogger SKG said...

Glazer will exploit Utd's capacity as a money-making machine to the fullest. For instance there are rumours surfacing today that he wants to rename Old Trafford the "Nike Arena". Fans are worried about what this means for them, for example, higher ticket prices. Sir Alex or whoever is the manager in the future should also be worried about how much money Glazer will put in their transfer kitty. I will surprised if this is a lot. At the end of the day Utd are the richest club in the world because of their success on the pitch. Fans all over the world follow them because they have won trophy after trophy for the last 15 years or so. If they fail to win trophies in the future they will fast become a club not only losing its fans but also losing its potential to make money. This is why some of the players have said it will be unacceptable if they don't win the league next season. There is no doubt that at present Utd are sliding down the wrong path. I do think they can recover but with the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal fast becoming the dominant forces in England, it will be their biggest test yet.

5/15/2005 12:10 pm


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