Old Trafford flags fly at half mast but United fans still bitter over Glazer takeover

Malcolm Glazer died in Florida yesterday.

Image: Eamonn & James Clarke.

FEW MANCHESTER UNITED fans will ever forgive Malcolm Glazer for his acrimonious buyout of the club that left the 20-time English champions with millions of dollars of debt.

As a result, there was no outpouring of grief or flood of tributes from fans in the city of Manchester following yesterday’s death of the club’s 85-year-old former American owner.

Perhaps aware of the supporters’ enduring animosity, there was a low-key response from United — just a 75-word website statement that was in noticeable contrast to the gratitude flowing from the Glazers’ NFL franchise, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

United’s Twitter account made no mention of the passing of the man who bought the club for £790million (then $1.47 billion) in 2005.

The Manchester United Supporters’ Trust, which has spearheaded the movement against the Glazer family, avoided any criticism of the billionaire in the hours after his death, choosing to reassert its condemnation of the family as a whole.

Glazer’s direct involvement in United appeared to end after he had a stroke in 2006, and his six grown children control all but the 10 per cent of the club that has been listed on the New York Stock Exchange since 2012.

“As a supporter I am aware of the detrimental effect the Glazers have had on the football club and the huge debt that has been placed on Manchester United,” MUST vice chairman Sean Bones said.

Although United’s debt has fallen from a high of £716.5m in 2008-09 to £351.7m , the financial burden remains a source of bitterness among fans.

United was debt free before the Glazers saddled the club with loans to finance the buyout, which was greeted with violent protests and burning effigies of Malcolm Glazer in the streets outside the 76,000-capacity Old Trafford.

Servicing the debt has cost United more than $1.5 billion in finance charges over nine years. Fans can only dream how that money could have been spent on new players rather than going to financial institutions.

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The fans’ anger has only grown since Abu Dhabi’s ruling family bought crosstown rival Manchester City, investing more than $1.5bn to overhaul the team and infrastructure to finally challenge United’s supremacy. City won the Premier League title this season for the second time in three years. United finished seventh.

Some supporters were so incensed by the Glazers’ takeover that they not only stopped going to games in 2005 but started their own breakaway club. Fully owned and run by supporters, FC United has reached the seventh tier of English football — just three promotions from the professional league system — and is opening its own 5,000-seat stadium later this year.

“The Glazers’ ownership of Manchester United is a product of the lack of regulation that we have in the game,” FC United general manager Andy Walsh said. “Malcolm Glazer took advantage of that and his passing does not change that fact. The Glazer family still own Manchester United Football Club. The takeover of Manchester United caused a lot of pain in this city.”

With the value of Premier League television rights still going up, the Glazers have little urgency to sell a business with a market capitalization of $2.7bn. But one of the six siblings, who have shown little emotional attachment to the club and rarely attend home games, could decide to cash in on their investment.

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