Double Glazers, forever in their debt

Not since the Summer of 2006 have I approached a forthcoming season with such precious little optimism. Then, Chelsea had just won the title at a canter and bolstered their squad with the signings of Ashley Cole and Andriy Shevchenko along with Michael Ballack and John Obi Mikel, who’d been swiped from under United’s nose. With a seemingly bottomless pit of money and Jose Mourinho as manager, they looked unstoppable. In second place during the 2005/6 season were United. The position was a misnomer; at no point during that season did anybody think United were going to win the title. During the close season of 2006 United had only signed Michael Carrick. United also had the hysteria whipped up by the British media of the supposed Rooney/Ronaldo fall out after Wayne Rooney was correctly sent off in Gelsenkirchen for stamping on Ricardo Carvalho’s testicles. Cristiano Ronaldo was subsequently blamed by the very balanced and fair minded English tabloid press for England’s exit from the tournament (not Sven-Göran Eriksson’s tactics, squad/team selection or choice of penalty takers). That Rooney and Ronaldo clicked so well the following season was just as big a kick in the nuts for the anti-United brigade as the one on Carvalho. United seizing the title from a previously unstoppable-looking Chelsea is to this day, for my money, Sir Alex Ferguson’s finest hour.

Wayne Rooney is so angry at Cristiano Ronaldo getting him sent off in the World Cup in 2006 that he’s shaking his hand as he walks off the pitch 

A few months after the controversial takeover by the Glazer family in May 2005, Sir Alex Ferguson had endorsed their running of the club. People who are wilfully blind, or believe what they want to believe, took this as proof positive that the protests that preceeded and greeted the Glazer takeover was not only futile but misguided too. That from season 2006/2007 to present day United have won the title four times and the European Cup once would, on the surface, make things look good. In 2010 United lost the title to Chelsea by one point and the season just passed lost the title to City on goal difference. Everything’s alright isn’t it ?

The Glazers being escorted out of Old Trafford in June 2005

Since United sold Cristiano Ronaldo in 2009 for £80,000,000, things have been clearly far from alright. That summer, United also lost the services of Carlos Tevez having previously promised that the “permanent” transfer would be taken care of. Whatever people think of Carlos Tevez the man, he was as a centre forward for United, sensational. The reasoning emanating was that he was too expensive and that he’d left his United owned house in Alderley Edge a mess. On that basis, I was relieved he’d left Old Trafford, I can’t overemphasise the importance it is as United player to keep a tidy house. We were assured by David “manning the barricades” Gill that the money United received for Ronaldo in 2009 was waiting to be used on the right player. Sir Alex Ferguson claimed the money had not been used because there was no value in the market. That money could’ve been used to buy somebody like Ya-Ya Toure, a player who’d had a blinder against United in the Rome hosted European Cup final of 2009 but he obviously didn’t fit into the category of value. That Ronaldo money has now vanished. As for value in the market, if Dimitar Berbatov is representative of value then I’m looking at a completely different market.

Sir Alex Ferguson espousing his brand of socialism with the Glazers in 2006

Over the years, Sir Alex Ferguson has sporadically spoken well of the Glazers. Personally I was disappointed in this stance but I conveniently took a moderate position on these pronouncements due to him being “the man with the plan” (to borrow a phrase from UWS). This summer has seen Sir Alex Ferguson’s most aggressive display of support for the Glazers yet. What was once a feeling of disappointment and disillusion towards Ferguson from me has now turned into a naked disdain. I’m to the way of thinking how dare he question the loyalty and commitment of United fans who are unhappy with the blatant robbery of the club by his employers. This from a proud Govanite shop steward. The people who are expressing concern that he so disparages are the same people who with a loyalty that was blind and now apparently one-sided, were disrupting horse race meetings involving Coolmore nags when he was in dispute with Coolmore owner John Magnier, who along with J P McManus, also happened to be the major shareholders at Old Trafford. The dispute revolved around the stud rights to a horse that had been gifted to Sir Alex Ferguson, a horse that he’d not put a penny of his own money into (like his present bosses at Old Trafford come to think of it) and a horse that he’d drawn a healthy stipend off for basically having his photograph taken next to. Ferguson’s badly advised fight with such a powerful opponent as Magnier was only going to end up with one result (no matter what face saving bullshit was peddled by Ferguson’s PR people). It had echoes of Terry Venables’ battle with Alan Sugar approximately ten years prior, the only difference in outcome was that Ferguson kept his job.

Sir Alex Ferguson with jockey Michael Kinane and Rock of Gibraltar

 I’ve no doubt that the actions of a well meaning but more militant faction of United fans (M.E.C) coupled with the action of Sir Alex Ferguson in his litigation over the stud rights lead to the chain of events which left the Glazers in charge at Old Trafford. People have said that Magnier and McManus would have sold out to the Glazers come what may due to the offer they received but I believe that to be rubbish. United were turning over a tidy profit for Coolmore/Cubic Expression every year which was an added bonus to the kudos of having a major share in such a world famous sporting institution. All the trouble from the Ferguson affair coupled with a very good offer from the Glazers (with borrowed money at crippling interest) have lead Coolmore to basically say, fuck this, give us the money and we’re out.

Sir Alex Ferguson with Susan Magnier, his partner in ownership of Rock of Gibraltar along with John Magnier in more harmonious times

Many people warned in the Summer of 2005 what the implications of this takeover were. Andy Walsh, Sean Bones, Duncan Drasdo, the three main fanzines around Old Trafford (Red News, Red Issue & United We Stand) and organistions like Shareholders United and IMUSA were pilloried for being scaremongers. Basically what they were saying in 2005 is very close now to coming true.

Former chair of the Independent Manchester United Supporters Association, now General Manager of FC United, Andy Walsh

When Paul Scholes came out of retirement last January, he was truly brilliant and I’m glad he’s signed on for another year. That said, as good as he was, does anybody believe that Scholes would have returned in those circumstances pre-Glazer? Scholes would’ve probably gone to Everton as United would’ve already replaced him (don’t give me Tom Cleverley!) Towards the end of the season where United blew an eight point lead with six games to go, they needed a midfield general to marshal the team and maintain discipline, coupled with a player who could take a corner. City had Ya-Ya Toure, United had Ji Sung Park. God bless the lad, Park did some great work at Old Trafford, never moaned and was a particular thorn in Arsenal’s side but it was painful watching him against Toure at the tripe colony in April. At the time of writing, United have signed Nick Powell from Crewe Alexandra (their young players traditionally used to go to Liverpool) and Japanese midfielder Shinji Kagawa from Borussia Dortmund. I don’t know much about Kagawa, I’ve heard good things about him from people whose opinion I respect and he was highly thought of at Dortmund. Nick Powell looks good but it’s too early to say how so especially after everybody getting giddy (myself included) about Phil Jones this time last year.

Roy Keane and Alex Ferguson

Sir Alex Ferguson and Roy Keane happily reminisce at Old Trafford in August 2007

As for Sir Alex Ferguson, only time will tell if he’s pulled off a masterstroke and made another silk purse out of a sow’s ear. He’s seen off better and more shrewd managers than the likeable Robert Mancini. Wenger and Mourinho immediately spring to mind. From a sheerly pragmatic view, his past record should buy him time should he want it but his attitude to United fans, which is getting more like Marie Antoinette every passing year, means that patience is wearing thin from people like me who’ve previously devoutly defended him against all kinds of criticism over the last twenty six years. That he so virulently defends a regime that should be abhorrent to what he’s supposed to believe in is the greatest paradox. Whilst Roy Keane may be embittered (a recurring incidence with people who’ve had close professional dealings with Sir Alex), what he said last December about Sir Alex looking primarily after himself appears as accurate as any pass he made during his distinguished twelve years at Old Trafford. In the winter of 1990, Red Issue columnist Zar wrote that time was running out for Ferguson and despite United’s convenient denials over the years, it probably was. Then, he turned things round to a degree which nobody in their wildest dreams or a scouser’s biggest nightmare could’ve envisaged. He might do it again, only a fool would bet against him, but now, time really is running out for obvious reasons. Sir Alex Ferguson came to United when they were in a complete mess and was given time which would now be unthinkable to sort the mess out. That he did so is the greatest achievement of his professional life. Due to his lamentable endorsement of the Glazer ownership and the obvious decline in United’s squad and resources, he could end up leaving at least as big a mess as the one he inherited from Ron Atkinson. For that to be his legacy would be a crying shame, there’s no question about that.

8 thoughts on “Double Glazers, forever in their debt”

  1. Hope your not turning blue [with anger] Fergie really backed the wrong horse falling out with Magnier and McManus. Whichever way this season or the season goes, I can’t see you reds turning your backs on Fergie, his record is too good for that.

  2. Great piece but the one thing that still confuses me is, why should the Gimps run the club into the ground ? Any trophyless season, like the last one, can’t do their ‘investment’ much good. The next owners, (hurry up lads getcha socks on) will surely want buy into a club with success within reach. Don’t misunderstand the first bit, I want those twats out as fast as you can say it. If the USA economy gets into gear, we may stand a chance of shifting them bastards. In the meantime Fergie should stop publicly backing the gLOSERS if only to maintain his chances of Sainthood with us drunken knownouts. It will be sickening if he starts slagging them off in his next book. Fergies credit rating is pretty low with savvy Reds. So he can expect little sympathy if he gets some flak or worse, early doors. When it comes to him going, I hope its handled more graciously than he has handled some of our heroes. Live and Die etc. Anyhow, some footy soon to moan about. That should cheer us all up. Keep chipping away lads.

    1. In response to Mustapha, I think circumstances have conspired against the Glazers and it was this risk that they weighed on United that was what most people were up in arms at from the start. 2005 to the Glazers was a period of calm on the global economic front from a financing point of view but they needed a cash cow to prop up some of their ailing investments. United was the cash cow…in return United inherited the debt and the risk. From there things changed dramatically with events, especially from 2008 on, out of their control and foresight which made financing the debts become radically more expensive, and their chancer’s mentality has been stretched to breaking point, and in my opinion way passed their ability to keep coming up with more and more creative (and secretive) ways of refinancing within their own means. The latest IPO is basically a chancer’s charter…they are basically reliant on emotional (ironically love of the club clouding any thoughts of investment potential or more importantly the medium to long term benefit of the club itself) investors buying into a piece of something they adore as no savvy investor will touch these shares with the Glazers money…if they actually ever had some! It’s not like they want to kill the golden goose (I know I know, it was a cash cow a second a go) but they are so desperate now that they are basically “all in” in Texas hold-em parlance.

  3. Great piece Murph. It’s quite sad to see you come over to the dark side re: Fergie. You have always been the balanced view that tended to bring some rationale thought and pacification to my sometimes emotional outbursts at some of the stances our Govanor(sic) had taken over more recent years. I also agree with another point alluded to above that if he was to come out with a book after the event slating the current owners then he will have undone a lot if not all of his achievements in my eyes…and as the greatest manager in my United supporting lifetime (1973 onwards just about clears me from any discussions around Busby v Fergie) that would be some undoing. The thing is though United was there before and (hopefully) will be after Fergie and ultimately that’s how I will judge his achievements and not simply on trophies won…it never really was about winning trophies it was how we did things in my red tinted eyes that counted.

  4. Thanks Murph; for someone like me with the financial acumen of a tin of pilchards, the Glazer regime have been like the rich, greasy uncles I don’t see very often and always feel vaguely uncomfortable with. I’ve always been on the fence about them if only because other clubs ( for example, Liverpool, Portsmouth, Leeds, Birmingham) have really copped it due to financial hanky-panky of one kind or another from brainless owners and Chief Execs whilst the Glazers, unsavoury though they might be, have presided over a very successful era and don’t – superficially – seem to mess with Fergie.

    However, irrespective of their imminent New York flotation, what is bugging me right now are the clear signs that Ferguson is having the ground cut out from underneath him in terms of competing for the biggest transfer targets. Personally I have no problem about Lucas Moura going elsewhere; from what I saw of him, he looked like a right-sided midfielder in the Nani/Valencia mould and I think we are adequately covered there. However, it’s more the fact that we are regularly gazumped every summer and that Fergie’s budget is seemingly designed for Aldi rather than Waitrose. Nick Powell may turn out to be the steal of the century, or he could be another Darron Gibson. Kagawa looks like Park Mark Two, frankly – a useful squad player but no more from what I’ve seen pre-season.

    I think your piece accurately flags up the departure of Ronaldo & Tevez as the point at which United quietly slipped away from the top table of the European game and began shopping for bargains – presumably at the Glazers’ behest. As you say, the Ronaldo money was never re-invested, Tevez was allowed to slip away (a blessing really considering what a twat he has turned out to be) and along with the previously departing Beckham, Van Nistelrooy and Keane, this calibre of player was never replaced like for like.

    Of recent arrivals, only Lindegaard, Smalling & de Gea have really convinced me – Young, Hernandez & Jones all started well and then went off the boil. What we are missing is two dominant central midfielders – a creator and a destroyer – and it looks as though, yet again, we are going to miss out. Given our alleged ‘worldwide network’ of scouts, this is just not acceptable. If Van Persie signs (and I’ll believe it when I see it) I think we could end up solid in defence and attack but with a make-do-and-mend midfield that relies on wingers, unproven tyros like Cleverley and veterans – oh, and Anderson (how could I forget?) – and lacks any dominant personality or presence. Also, as I have sung his praises on here before now, I am desperately sad that the club allowed Pogba to escape to Juventus. Now, he could have been the dominant force in our midfield for the next ten years.

    As for Fergie, the static about his support of the owners is increasing and rightly so, I think, especially as it seems that none of this anticipated IPO windfall is going to benefit us on the pitch. Surely he should be agitating for a slice of the pie to keep the Pogbas and bring in the Mouras of this world? United are being marketed in the States as a ‘premier leisure brand’ and if (for example) you look at how Richard Branson parlayed his humble mail order record business into airlines, finance and trains, we can perhaps look forward to the United ‘brand’ being used to sell everything from finance to fashion. The question is, where will that leave MUFC, the football club?

    I find myself wondering if this is going to be Fergie’s final season. He must know that without the transfer budget to bring in top-flight talent from around the world, he is likely to be restricted to purely domestic success this season – and with City, Arsenal and Chelsea strengthening that is by no means certain. More than anything else, you can just sense that the mood at Old Trafford isn’t good. Players like Evra, Ferdinand, Berbatov, Giggs, Scholes are all coming to the end of their time with us and everyone knows that the available replacements are, by and large, not up to the same standard. My fear is that like the Dippers before us we will be left clutching our DVD’s of ‘The Treble’ as Fergie heads for pipe and slippers and the club sinks into mid-table, cheapskate medicority.

    Like you, I look ahead to the new season with minimal optimism. Where is the player who is going to get us on our feet and set the stadium alight? Oh, Rooney again…yeah, that’s right… Anyone seen him in pre-season? No pace, no ball control, no energy, no enthusiasm….he looks unfit and disinterested.

    The portents are not good. Let’s hope we’re all looking back next May and wondering how we could ever have been so miserable and so pessimistic.

  5. If anyone saw Gill on Sky News earlier today he came out with the line that the Exec share scheme associated with the IPO had not been defined as yet. I thought Fergie was saying he definitely would not be benefiting from the IPO or share scheme…which one’s telling the truth ?

    Also, anone else think the price of $14 was just the last throw of the dice from the Glazers and it unfortunately succeeded from their point of view. Until 24hrs before the IPO it was quoted that they were looking for $16 to $20. They obviously never had that underwritten and so on the day drop it to $14 per share to which some gullible twats thought “we are getting it cheap“. Despite that it is still being held at $14 dollars on the first day by the underwriters (and who knows. the Glazers themselves) rebuying the shares until other investors mistakenly believe its a reasonable price and take up a slice. Talk about deception of the naive ?

    1. The fact that the shares have up to now, appreciated by US$0.02 per share is significant. When a major company floats on the stock exchange of any financial hub, the first thing the shares do is inflate dramatically in value by hysterical oportunism before finding an equilibrium a couple of days later. The most recent example of this was the Facebook flotation a couple of months ago.

      Bearing in mind that these shares offer no voting rights and no dividend, I want to know which professional investor in their right mind is going to buy them ? As for United fans buying them to own a bit of the club, after all the warnings of how worthless this share issue is both from stock market savvy reds and independant analyst, they deserve every loss that they’re inevitably going to get on these shares through their depreciation. The only question is how long is it going to take, hours, days or a week ? I don’t think it will be any longer.

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