David Beckham crowned the perfect evening for United fans as he stood in front of the Stretford End, draped in a familiar green and gold scarf, illustrating his backing to the supporters campaign against the club’s owners.
The former United midfielder made his long awaited return to Old Trafford as his AC Milan side had their Champions league aspirations crushed, with Sir Alex Ferguson’s team romping to a 7-2 aggregate victory.
A section of Manchester United supporters launched their campaign in January to remonstrate against the Glazer family and the $1.1 billion debt they have plunged the club into.
The green and gold design originates from Newton Heath FC who were founded in 1878, and sported the colours, before they became Manchester United in 1902.
Football finance expert Keith Harris maintains he has £1 billion in place to buy the out the Glazers, but warns supporters they must boycott games and merchandise, in order to force out the current owners: “They have to be prepared to take the pain of not watching their club in order to achieve a long-term gain.”
There is a part of me that applauds Manchester United fans for showing an enthusiasm and passion for the future and well being of their club. Ultimately, their owners are controlling the club with the soul motivation of reaping all the benefits. Even after winning the Premier League, and reaching the Uefa Champions League final last season, United would have been operating at a £40 million loss if they hadn’t sold Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid.
I accept it’s fashionable to knock Manchester United supporters, however, to label them all as ‘plastic’, and ‘glory seekers’ is complete football snobbery. There are thousands of United supporters, (more likely those in the comparatively cheaper seats), who travel the country and Europe to support their team. It is those fans, and the supporters who have ripped up their season ticket, in protest, to go and support FC United, that I empathise with, and who are no different to you and I.
However, where were the green and gold army in Moscow, when Manchester United won the Champions League? Where were these protestors when the club formed an oligopoly and used their position to rake in millions that have funded their meteoric rise? Where were they when United started exploiting their power in football to hand pick players from all over the country, and fork out record sums for them? The fact is, while United were a Public Limited Company, it allowed the likes of Malcolm Glazer to become the majority shareholder, and buy out the club. Amid the current campaign protesting against the Glazers, and that United are no longer a PLC, supporters of the club must realise they can’t have it both ways. Fans weren’t protesting when being a PLC led them to dominating English football for much of the last 20 years.
On the very same day Manchester United fans were protesting about the Glazer family’s involvement in the club, just over 40 miles down the road; Chester City went bust over debts of £26,000. Had one in three Manchester United supporters chosen to not buy a match day programme and instead spend their coffers down the road at the Deva Stadium, a football club would still be in existence, albeit for the time being at least.
A staggering 59% of Manchester United supporters said they ‘might not’ renew their season ticket for the 2010/11 season; whether they would actually go through with it remains to be seen. Statistics like this have led the media to hail the anti-Glazer campaign as some sort of pioneering mass football protest. In reality, it’s a middle class protest from a set of supporters who sing a few songs, buy some scarves and are safe in the knowledge they won’t go under.
There is a major contrast in the possibility of over 30,000 supporters turning their back on the club, to ITV’s Clive Tyldesley revealing United supporters would remain outside Old Trafford for the first ten minutes of their Champions League tie against AC Milan. How can fans waiting outside the ground for 10 minutes be seen as some sort of major boycott? 10 minutes is a slight delay on the train, it’s about as affective as fans spending the opening period of the game sighing loudly.
Manchester United fans need to understand that, whatever the debt, whatever the problems, someone will come and ‘rescue’ your club. The real losers are the Norwich City supporters who reside in Manchester.
Written By Joe Questier