Glazer cloud hangs over improving Manchester United

AFP , Saturday 4 Mar 2023

Manchester United fans are on the crest of a wave after ending a six-year wait to win a trophy and remain in the hunt for three more in a remarkable first season under Erik ten Hag.

Manchester United fans


Sitting third in the Premier League ahead of Sunday's clash with Liverpool, the Red Devils are into the FA Cup quarter-finals and last 16 of the Europa League on the back of one defeat in 22 games.

There could be even more reason to celebrate in the coming months should the United supporters finally get their wish with the departure of unpopular American owners, the Glazer family.

Yet doubts over whether the Glazers will sell their controlling stake in the club, despite inviting bids for the 20-time English champions, cast a shadow over a potentially bright future.

Qatar's Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani and British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe made bids before a soft deadline for buyers to make their interest known on February 17.

But both are reported to be short of the Glazers' £6 billion ($7.2 billion, 6.8 billion euros) asking price for a club their father Malcolm Glazer bought for £790 million in 2005.

Rumoured tension even among the Glazer camp adds an extra layer of uncertainty.

Joel and Avram Glazer, the club's executive co-chairmen, are reportedly less willing to part with the English giants than their four other siblings.

Avram Glazer was at Wembley last weekend to see United lift their first silverware since 2017 by beating Newcastle 2-0 in the League Cup final.

- 'Glazers out' -

But the return of success on the field has not quelled the fury directed towards United's owners by the fans.

Chants of "We want Glazers out" echoed around Wembley during the League Cup final and in the victory over Barcelona at Old Trafford in a heavyweight Europa League tie late last month.

The family, who also own the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFL, have been unpopular since day one as their takeover saddled the club with huge debts.

The Glazers have overseen the steady decline of a club that used to be English football's dominant force on and off the pitch.

United have not won a Premier League title since former manager Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.

Old Trafford is in need of redevelopment and even United's commercial power is beginning to feel the strain from a decade in the doldrums.

For the first time in the Premier League era, Liverpool's revenue of £594 million was greater than United's £583 million last season.

The two clubs clash at Anfield this weekend, with both uncertain about when their owners will sell up.

Liverpool owner John Henry has ruled out a full sale of the club despite seeking fresh investment.

Henry's Fenway Sports Group (FSG) have far more credit in the bank with supporters than the Glazers.

In the 13 years since FSG rescued Liverpool from the brink of administration, the Reds have been restored to the top of the English and European game -- winning the 2019 Champions League and lifting the club's first Premier League crown for 30 years in 2020.

But patience is even wearing thin among the Liverpool fanbase over a lack of spending in the transfer market after a season of decline.

Jurgen Klopp's men are sixth in the Premier League, 21 points adrift of leaders Arsenal, and were humiliated 5-2 on home soil by Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.

"It is a summer where we have to be in the market definitely," said Klopp last week as Liverpool aim to get back on their perch next season.

Make the right signings and FSG will be forgiven. By contrast, the acrimony between United fans and the Glazers is embedded in the fabric of the club.

If they choose not to sell, the bubble of euphoria around Old Trafford could well burst.

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