MANCHESTER, England – It is generally accepted that every figure of authority involved in the failed attempt by 12 clubs to create a European Super League last month misjudged the mood of their team – and that of many others – fans, before she hastily pulled the plug on the whole idea. No one, however, stirred up a hornet’s nest like the Glazer family, who own Manchester United.
The fans have always been suspicious of the glaziers’ motives since their acquisition in 2005, believing that they are only driven by money and have the opportunity to harness the club brand’s commercial power.
As such, her involvement in the Super League cabal merely confirmed that suspicion and deepened her unpopularity. The shocking events on Sunday at Old Trafford, when protesting fans forced the postponement of the Premier League game against Liverpool, were a powerful example of deeply ingrained hostility.
While post-Super League protests elsewhere were by and large peaceful, United’s botched demolition plans simply poured salt on existing wounds and sparked a rebellion that resulted in the game being considered the greatest game in the English game , was canceled because, in the words of the Premier League, it created “a dangerous situation that should have no place in football”.
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And it was dangerous; A statement by Greater Manchester Police, released after the postponement was confirmed, found that an officer needed emergency hospital treatment after sustaining a “severe cut on the face” from a thrown bottle. Police added that “bottles and barriers” were thrown on horses and that United staff were “locked in rooms” as protesters broke the Old Trafford security chain.
Pictures of the protest, released in the days leading up to the game, showed fans at the United Team Hotel shedding torches before up to 200 made their way into the stadium and onto the pitch, where they climbed goal posts and stole the corner flags and footballs and entered the tunnel area and locker room where COVID-19 logs were breached in the bio-safe red zone.
While problems flared up, the United and Liverpool players stayed hidden in their hotels and were unable to make the short trip to Old Trafford.
Manchester United fans took their disdain for the Glazer family to a new level at OId Trafford on Sunday. OLI SCARFF / AFP via Getty Images
United fans’ aversion to the Glazers dates back 16 years when the Florida-based family indebted the club with a £ 540 million leveraged acquisition. There were protests at the time and warnings that under such a ownership model, club funds would be spent on servicing loans rather than on acquiring star players.
Glazer brothers Avram, Joel, and Bryan needed a police escort to escape a group of over 100 disgruntled fans at Old Trafford in the days after taking over, and supporters have been ranting the owners ever since. Indeed, some simply stopped following United and one group formed the non-league team United of Manchester FC in protest.
Many remain loyal, however, and prior to the pandemic, the club had the highest average attendance in the Premier League, with more than 75,000 consistent home games. And therein lies the contradiction – despite their contempt for those responsible, there are still thousands of fans showing up, and the glaziers know it.
Conservative estimates suggest that the Glazer-owned club has lost over £ 1 billion in debt payments and stock dividends. These numbers contrast with the actions of Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan, who has poured over £ 1 billion into United’s neighbors since buying the club in 2008.
In 2009-10, United fans tried to oust the Glazers with a “Green and Gold” campaign based on the colors of Newton Heath, the club that grew into United at the beginning of the 20th century. The goal was to force the Americans to sell to the Red Knights, a group of wealthy United fans, but despite David Beckham – who played for Milan at the time but a United legend – donned a green and gold scarf Als The movement ran out of steam to show support.
The Glazers, who have owned the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers since 1995, rode this storm and have done so with others, regularly attending United Games before the pandemic. A source told ESPN that they were unfazed by the hostility and were unlikely to sell because of the prestige they have as owners.
Their backers – and they don’t have many – would argue that they have always backed their managers with money on signings. United’s net spending on new players has been £ 742m since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013. Only City (£ 864.5m) has spent more on English clubs.
However, a lack of communication with the fans, coupled with the team’s lack of success on the pitch after Ferguson, resulted in heightened hostility towards the glaziers. The announcement earlier this year that Avram was selling £ 70 million worth of stock with no proceeds going back to the club only reinforced fan claims that they were only there for the money.
With this in mind, the Super League’s plans turned out to be the last straw for the fans who took matters into their own hands on Sunday. With fresh impetus, many years of resentment, anger and frustration reached the boiling point.
Ed Woodward, Executive Vice President of Man United, left, Avram Glazer, right. Photo by Simon Stacpoole / Offside / Getty Images
With high profile figures like former United captain Gary Neville, who condemned the glasses as “scavengers” after the runaways, the Liverpool game was identified as the perfect stage to remind the world of their determination to oust the owners.
In addition to a change of ownership, United fans want football governance reform to ensure that supporters of all clubs have a say on issues such as ticket prices and kick-off times, and to prevent unscrupulous owners from taking responsibility for clubs in to which they are rooted communities for over 100 years.
But aside from the short-term impact of Sunday’s protests, they won’t force the glasses to sell United and that creates a problem for the club and the Premier League. If fans don’t get what they want, there is a risk that the violence and disorder will recur on Sunday.
There is no obvious middle ground or compromise that could result in the two sides reaching a ceasefire. After a day of shameful scenes and images, England’s most glamorous game was canceled amid the sound of broken glass and the roar of an angry mob.
Nobody shows up with improved reputation and damage has been done to all sides.