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Why do Manchester United fans really hate the Glazers?

Sunday 9th May 2021
Manchester United fans have cultivated a mob mentality regarding their American owners over the past 16 years.
Manchester United fans have cultivated a mob mentality regarding their American owners over the past 16 years.

Hate is a strong word frequently applied when a tamer term such as dislike would better serve. Brussel sprouts, for instance. People aren’t likely to lose their minds at the sight of the tiny, wrinkled green balls of yuck. They might shudder or turn away but, in the end, will likely just put up a hand and politely say, “No, thank you.”

When it comes to Manchester United fans and the Glazers, however, the word hate is the tamest, most courteous term that comes to mind. Despise. Loathe. Detest. Abhor. Abominate. These more visceral synonyms all fit the bill as neatly as hate when describing United supporters' attitude towards their owner. Red Devils supporters really do lose their minds at the sight or mention of their absentee owners.

Really. As in they really do and they really lose their minds.

Take for example my good friend and colleague, Jordan Street, who on Thursday posted a diatribe against the owners of the club we both adore under the headline, Why it’s time for a change at Manchester United.

His rant goes far beyond brussel sprouts. Thought of the Glazers makes his blood boil hotter than the pot in which the reviled vegetables are prepared. Why?

He says it’s not because the club is underperforming, although he clearly believes they are thanks to the Glazers. Except United have won 19 trophies [including Community Shields] in what is soon to officially become 16 years of their stewardship.

Jordan bemoans that the Glazers “almost immediately placed this club into debt for the first time since 1931”. To be fair, he doesn’t complain that the Glazers used the club’s own equity to finance their takeover. He understands that millionaires and billionaires rarely spend their own money, unlike the average punter who looks at his wage packet when clocking out on Friday and says, “Off to the pub!”

Properly managed debt, regardless of the amount, is not a bad thing. It’s how the global economy functions. The US and UK are steeped in debt yet remain among the strongest economies in the world. United fans naturally suspected their new investors when the Glazers put the club itself up as collateral but everything they've done on the business side has improved the club's value. The Glazers proved they know how to responsibly manage debt long ago but the LUHG crowd can't let it go. The football side of the business is the Glazers' Achilles heel and, to their credit, they know it, which brings us back to the issue of the squad’s decline.

For eight years, Malcolm, Avram, Joel, et al relied on Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill to handle on-pitch matters. People often forget that previously, Sir Alex needed nearly that long, seven years in fact, to get a grip on the club before going on to hoist 38 trophies in 26 seasons. In that initial struggle, the Scot accumulated a wealth of knowledge and experience that, barring impulsive sales of Jaap Stam and David Beckham, he spent shrewdly. Consequently, his acumen paid tremendous dividends.

Coincidentally, Jordan gripes that the Glazers happen to be the only owners who, as shareholders, pay themselves dividends every season. And why is that bad?. Of the few clubs traded on a stock exchange, Manchester United is the only one that is profitable year in and year out. Again, they know how to manage their debt and turn it into wealth for both themselves and the club. That should portray them as good custodians rather than thieves.

Jordan comes closer to the true problem when he complains the Glazers have only twice directly addressed fans. Everyone likes a pat on the head, now and then. Yet fans don't seem to realize why they've been ignored, ironically ignoring that they the Glazers into hiding even before the new owners assumed full controlling interest in the team. The serenity prayer asks for strength to effect change where possible, acceptance of the impossible and the wisdom to know the difference. 

That is why the Glazers foolishly involved themselves in the European Super League. It was a change they thought they could make. Now they have the wisdom to know the difference and, to appease fans, have promised to pat them on the head more and invest in stadium upgrades they already intended anyway. But you can bet that if those calling for their ouster don't come to the table, the Glazers will retreat into the shadows again.

It also bears mentioning that the ESL insurrection wasn't a solo operation. Twelve clubs were involved and the prime movers were chairmen who had been elected by their fans. They've been rebuked but no one is calling for their heads or for any of the other five Premier League chairmen involved. You didn't see Kopites marching arm in arm with their United brethren last Sunday, did you?

So why do fans really revile the Glazers?

You can relax. I'm not going to play the bigotry card. The Glazers don't draw scorn because they're American or Jewish, although those are factors for an irredeemable few. English football's vast majority don’t mind foreign ownership, even those who hold a different faith. They can back a Muslim Sheikh who throws money at the Etihad walls until trophies stick, all the while ignoring the human rights abuses he permits in his homeland. They love a Russian oligarch who meddles in management and transfer business constantly but whose every knee-jerk reaction seems to end with another piece of silverware.

Nationalism and sectarianism aren’t the root causes of this animosity. Tribalism is.

The Glazers were anathema from the start for one simple reason. With absolutely no comprehension of football culture, history or tradition, they weren't United material. The Americans more than threatened, they promised, a new, globalized brand of football. Three years ago, the BBC published a story revealing that the majority of top flight clubs would have made a profit in the 2016/17 campaign without paid attendance. Where does that leave the match day fan? The Glazers’ scheme to grow Manchester United effectively marginalised those who grew up in Old Trafford’s shadow. In the punter's mind, sharing the club with the world meant having it taken from them. That is the real reason the Glazers are labeled as thieves. Debt is just a weapon to hand.

Don't agree? If you're a United protester, you should. Early in his piece, Jordan revels in the sea of Newton Heath green and gold that flew at the demonstration. Never mind that the bankrupt club was reinvented and made over in red as Manchester United by a fella with the unfortunate name of John Henry [Davies], a brewer and publican who, like Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke, married into wealth. Financial morass forgotten, green and gold somehow came to embody the club's history. Jordan piles on the irony by skewering the Glazers for caring only about money's colour, which, depending on whether you’re thinking in terms of paper or precious metal, happens to be green and gold. On a side note, he also calls them cowboys, which I admit caused my inner bigot to think of Billy Crystal in City Slickers.

If we’re being honest, it doesn’t matter that the Glazers put the club in debt. It doesn’t matter that they aren’t winning as many trophies these days. It won’t matter if they rise to the top again under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. or reach number one on Forbes list of wealthiest clubs. What does matter is that the club’s size, influence and success are now measured by how many millions around the world support it, drowning out the 80,000 or so Manc voices who sang its praises every weekend through thick and thin over the club’s first 117 years in existence. Manchester United fans hate the Glazers because they stole the club without knowing its true value, then sold it to the rest of the world.

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Martin Palazzotto

The former editor of World Football Columns, Martin authored the short story collection strange bOUnce. He appeared in several other blogs which no longer exist. Old, he likes to bring out defunct. If outdated sport and pop-cultural references intrude on his meanderings for It's Round and It's White, don't be alarmed. He's harmless.

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