Down The Wings

Manchester United Fan Blog

Why the Glazers should still be considered the major problem at Manchester United

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

When the Glazer family purchased Manchester United back in 2005 – an acquisition costing £790m – many supporters were coy in relation to their intentions with the club. The debt that the Glazers took on was shared between the family and Manchester United itself, with somewhere in the region of £270m worth of debt secured against the club’s assets. This was the first time that the club had been in debt since 1931 when local businessman James Gibson kept the club afloat in the wake of the Great Depression.

Perhaps this was a warning of what was to come; with seventeen years having passed, the Reds are now going to end a fifth consecutive season without a trophy, now the longest drought at Old Trafford since winning the FA Cup back in 1983. Many supporters believe that- having hit rock bottom- the only way is up from here forth, but there could be much further to fall when looking at the coming seasons ahead.

Motives and mentality

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It doesn’t take a genius to fathom out the priority of the Glazer family – making money out of the brand name ‘Manchester United’. The manner in which the club have gone from winning countless titles under Sir Alex Ferguson to challenging for fourth spot under countless managers since shows how they have successfully lowered the standards of many fans. Think about the current situation- Reds fans across the world are praying for Arsenal to carry out the ultimate bottle job so United can play in the Champions League next season. Some are hoping that Chelsea are deducted points for that same reason. Quite the drop off from winning the Champions League in 2008.

Of course, the motive of the Glazer family to achieve fourth spot is simple; with Champions League football, the club are rewarded with a qualification payment that allows the Glazers to take dividends. Brand deals remain prominent with the club ‘technically’ competing at the highest level, with the ever-growing fanbase edging to get the UEFA Champions League patches on the sleeves of the expensive shirts. The money comes rolling in, with fans having their attention diverted away from the ownership, more focused on the unrealistic dream of silverware on the continent.

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This mentality poisons the club from top to bottom. When the roots of the tree are rotten, the rest of the tree won’t fare so well either. The transfers team sign players based on their social media presence rather than their on-field value. The focus on money-making leads to a lack of a winner’s mentality in the dressing room. Players become more focused on protecting their individual brands rather than accepting responsibility for mistakes. The only players in the side at the moment who have an embedded winning mentality would be Raphael Varane and Cristiano Ronaldo. You could also make a case for David de Gea and Juan Mata, but both of them have seen the majority of their careers play out surrounded by this mentality at Old Trafford.

The success of Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea come as no surprise when considering the mentality of their ownership. The oil money jibes towards the Man City owners are all well and good, but their desire to be the best and win things is nothing short of admirable.

The acceptance of challenging for fourth has served the Glazers well so far, so why would this change in the coming seasons? Regardless of the new manager, it would take a huge interior overhaul to change the mentality within the club to focus more on winning trophies rather than on how many likes the latest Instagram post got.

Inept appointments

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Ed Woodward is widely renowned as the pantomime villain in and around Old Trafford. For years under his direction, United failed to win things, with the focus on making money evident. Nowadays, it is Richard Arnold who holds the lucrative CEO position, and whilst this was branded as somewhat of a cultural reset within the club, it is more just a reshuffling of the pack; Arnold joined the club in 2007 as a ‘commercial director’.

Just to be clear- the man calling the key footballing shots at one of the biggest clubs in the world is a commercial director.

In fairness to the club, it has been strongly suggested that Arnold will focus more on the financial side of things, leaving the footballing affairs to John Murtough, who will eventually be aided by Ralf Rangnick and Darren Fletcher. Although, having suffered for years at the hands of inept leadership, fans aren’t wrong to be suspicious and pessimistic. Rangnick is a glimmer of hope for fans, but many feel his impact from within will be limited.

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Murtough joined United in 2013/14 having worked with David Moyes at Everton. Since his arrival, United are yet to win a league title; he has failed to make an impact so far, so why would this now change? Darren Fletcher was doing a reserve team coaching role at Stoke City, and not long later he became a key figure in the rebuild of Manchester United. The ‘jobs for the boys’ mentality seeps through that club from head to toe.

Other clubs are successful because they appoint the correct people in big footballing roles, which translates to progress on the pitch. United appoint inexperienced, unqualified friends of the club who supposedly have the ‘United DNA’, which when analysed is a complete and utter myth, and nothing more than a marketing tool for the club.

David Moyes, Louis Van Gaal, Jose Mourinho, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. What makes you think that the next appointment these people make will be correct?

The threat of clubs below

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Assuming that Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea continue to challenge for trophies and remain at the top end of football, this automatically resides United to challenging for no more than fourth most seasons, maybe third at a push.

But it would be naïve to disregard the threat of the clubs below United in the coming seasons. Arsenal are an obvious threat, who are now starting to look like a team set for big things following their rebuild under Mikel Arteta, with Spurs always going to be lingering in the background.

Yet even the likes of Leicester, Aston Villa and West Ham could poise huge threats to United in the coming years. All three of those clubs are focused on success on the pitch, allowing the manager to make big decisions and employing the correct people in important roles to achieve progress. That is the opposite of United.

Not to mention Newcastle, who could flatten United like a steamroller in the coming seasons should the Reds continue in this mediocre fashion.

Enjoy the race for fourth while it lasts- it could soon be the quest for Europa Conference League football!

Simply untouchable

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The term ‘Glazers out’ has been thrown around frequently since the family’s arrival, but it is often said with a sense of pessimism, as the owners have survived any resistance that has faced them during their tenure so far. Something that often gets levelled against Reds fans is that supporters only take issue with the Glazers when the going gets tough, but history proves that this has not always been the case.

The Glazers visited Old Trafford for this first time on 29th June 2005, where they were met by a group of 300 fans who were firmly against the ownership, prompting a large Greater Manchester Police force to be called to the stadium. In the aftermath, the vice-chairman of Shareholders United (now known as Manchester United Supporters’ Trust) proclaimed that “the Glazer family are the enemies of Manchester United”.

A section of infuriated supporters took it upon themselves to establish F.C. United of Manchester, which was a local semi-professional club that was created in direct opposition to the newly established Glazer ownership.

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Even when United bagged three consecutive league titles in 2006/07, 2007/08 and 2008/09, there was avid resistance to the Glazers, with green and gold scarfs often branded as an anti-Glazer symbol, with the colours reminiscent to the club’s former identity of Newton Heath. Even supporters of other clubs may be familiar with the “Green and gold till the club is sold” slogan.

April 2021 saw Joel Glazer play a key part in negotiations for a European Super League. Met with great backlash in the form of protests and the postponement of the Premier League fixture against Liverpool, the first-time fans had got a game postponed in the competition’s history, it finally looked like this was the turning point that would drive the Glazers out.

However, with all that said, the Glazers remain in a strong and powerful position as of March 2022. They have survived backlash in a whole host of ways, even when things looked bleak in the wake of the Super League plans. The money-making mentality won’t change in the coming years, nor will the level of investment. The appointment of mediocre officials in important roles will continue, as will the club in a state of debt. In the new age of social media and technology, online interaction will go up even further in the coming years, and the idea of winning trophies will remain an irrelevant one. Why spend £250m on replenishing a squad when you are making double that amount in sponsorship revenues? Why aim to win the Premier League when consistent fourth-place finishes will secure great financial success?

When you put yourself in the Glazers’ shoes, you can see why they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

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