The fury became idiotic at times as Manchester United fans protested against the Glazers


As the early evening ticked closer to 7pm, they started tiptoeing towards the centre of Talbot Road, just over half a mile from Old Trafford. Before long, commuters were being told to hastily turn their cars around.

With the air filled by flares and road markings hidden underneath up to 10,000 pairs of feet, Manchester United’s disenfranchised were ready to march from the Tollgate pub. Many had been there for hours — hanging on fences, clambering up lamp-posts, squeezing into the beer garden.

This type of action, chanting through the streets of Stretford and paying little attention to the game ahead, is viewed by plenty as their only outlet to vent at the Glazer family. They sang about Malcolm Glazer being ‘in a box,’ about killing his son, Joel. One banner read: ‘Mutiny until our club is sold.’

Manchester United fans protested the club’s ownership by the Glazers before Monday’s game

They made their way past famous matchday bar The Trafford, spilling out on to a crossroads, which is exactly where United find themselves.

Nobody knows what Joel Glazer and the rest of the family are thinking at the moment, other than the fact that raising capital is of urgent necessity. One quick glance at the latest accounts, and the net debt of £495.7million, proves that.

United are fighting the faceless, the owners rarely seen, and fury became idiotic at times. Cans were hurled at a bus full of young United supporters the crowds mistook for Liverpool fans, the children described as ‘frightened to death’ by the coach company. The chants about murderers and signing on were never too far from the surface; bottles and cans rained on the away section outside the East Stand, where thousands congregated before kick-off.

61627003 11135843 image a 11 1661207696054

Organised United supporters were marching on the stadium before kick off against the Reds

Prior to Monday's game there had been talks of a potential take over from Sir Jim Ratcliffe

Prior to Monday’s game there had been talks of a potential take over from Sir Jim Ratcliffe

There had been positive noises over the past week. Sir Jim Ratcliffe, Britain’s wealthiest man, fancies taking over but then, on closer inspection, that business decision flies in the face of everything that made him a billionaire. If buying low and selling high is a modus operandi, then the Premier League does not feel like the platform for another foray into football. And that is before the Glazers, and any potential valuation over £4billion they might dream up, are even mentioned.

Former board member Michael Knighton claims to have organised a consortium to lodge a bid — involving, people around him say, three British billionaires coined ‘The Secret Knights’ — and that has been met with a dose of scepticism. Knighton was spotted milling around the club’s megastore yesterday.

Sportsmail reported last week that private equity firm Apollo had held talks over buying a minority stake. And there is a key point to be made there. The question that has not yet been answered is whether additional shares are created to raise capital — thus the money going direct to United — or to any number of the family’s six siblings selling existing stock.

61627051 11135843 image a 14 1661207771385

Thousands of disgruntled Manchester United protesters had gathered near the stadium

So here we were before kick-off, on an August night in Manchester with no early season hope, no new manager optimism and no real cheer for a £60m midfielder, Casemiro, arriving from Real Madrid. One passing fan pleaded for his peers not to ‘bring negativity inside the stadium’. Before last night, the team had been doing enough of that on their own.

‘Frustration, and that sentiment from fans, is totally understandable,’ Ian Stirling, from Man United Supporters’ Trust, said. ‘There’s been almost £1.5bn taken out of the club, without the club performing.

‘No other Premier League club does that. We think that is wrong. The stadium desperately needs investment and is falling behind others. Ours was world class — we can’t say that now. We have a squad which, despite the Glazers allowing us to spend revenues the club has raised, is failing. Major investment is needed to turn this around.’

61627007 11135843 image a 12 1661207716040

Approximately 10,000 United supporters attended the protest on Monday evening

Some flags and banners have been erected nearby Old Trafford ahead of a march at 7pm

Some flags and banners have been erected nearby Old Trafford ahead of a march at 7pm

Antagonism and resentment linger. United’s fanbase, more than most, are at the whim of those who own them because of the very global behemoth they support. 

A boycott of Old Trafford by diehard regulars, refusing to use their season tickets for matches, would represent visual embarrassment but not impact on revenue. Similarly, turning their backs paves the way for others to take seats.

This is more nuanced than elsewhere, the ‘hit ’em where it hurts’ element of protesting not possessing quite the same shock. So they have to play smart, like those in red proved they can do last night.

British businessman Michael Knighton was at the protest against the Glazer family

British businessman Michael Knighton was at the protest against the Glazer family

The anarchical faction are crucial to this, with the 1958 group stirring emotions with visible protests like last night’s. MUST, meanwhile, have a seat at the table — listened to by the hierarchy. Those two aspects, working as pincers, can effect change but one cannot properly function without the other.

MUST are continuing with their fan share scheme, agreeing to extra shares being made available to buy, with owning a small percentage of the club safeguarding the future. 

Others, in green and gold, want immediate action from a family who have never shown an inclination to listen. Whether that changes is anybody’s guess.

There was a heavy police presence at the Tollgate pub where United protesters were meeting

There was a heavy police presence at the Tollgate pub where United protesters were meeting



Source link