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Love United Hate Glazer: The statistics behind the sentiment

“There’s no value in the transfer market”The words that Sir Alex Ferguson uttered on multiple occasions during his tenure serving under the Glazer’s stewardship. A similar sentiment was continuously conveyed by Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, following the purchase of their outlandish Emirates Stadium.

Both of these veteran managers had their hands tied by the powers that be, with Wenger especially even getting some of the blame for Arsenal’s lack of activity in the transfer market. In financial terms, Arsenal’s inability to invest following their transition to the Emirates is slightly logical. The total cost of constructing their new home was a staggering £390 million, which in the current economic climate would amount to £554 million.

It’s therefore understandable that Arsenal’s dealings in the transfer market were limited, following the 2006 rehousing of their club. However, in United’s case, the lack of investment in the eyes of many, is down to the perceived financial restraints imposed by their infamous owners. 

The widespread consensus among the Manchester United fanbase is a very poignant one: the Glazer family have inflicted debt upon the club, while providing scarce amounts of Sterling to bolster United’s squad. The bad news for the Glazer family is the financial statistics largely support this notion. In relation to debt, United’s debt stood at £0 in 2003, when the club was still owned by Martin Edwards. Just two years later, following the beginning of the Glazer era, the debt had astronomically risen to £558.9 million.

In the following four years, United’s on the pitch endeavours were close to perfection. In the period from 2006 to 2009, the Red Devil’s won three consecutive Premier League trophies, as well as the most desired trophy in club football: the UEFA Champions League. However, in 2009, the sale of United’s star asset Cristiano Ronaldo, well and truly burst the bubble of success. In the seasons preceding the Portuguese’s departure, the winger’s performances were stupendous.

In the 2007/08 season, Ronaldo scored an outrageous 42 goals, helping United to win the two most coveted trophies; the Premier League and the Champions League. Furthermore, Ronaldo obtained the award for the best player on the planet, the ‘Ballon d’Or’. While Ronaldo’s departure hit Sir Alex Ferguson’s on-pitch endeavours hard, the transfer ignited a chain of events that decimated the reputation of the Glazer family.

Manchester United received a world record £80 million from Real Madrid for the Portuguese’ services, and in the days following speculation was rife over who United would sign to replace their star asset. The investments that followed, were to tarnish the Glazer’s reputation forever. 

In spite of obtaining £80 million from their star player, United spent a measly £27 million in the market. The arrivals of Antonio Valencia for £17 million, Gabriel Obertan for £3.6 million, Mame Biram Diouf for £4 million and Michael Owen on a free transfer, was met with disbelief by United fans and mockery by fans of rival teams. The net spend of United totalled up at a profit of £69.36m, a figure which was an indictment on the perceived questionable motivations of the owners. 

Furthermore, the 2009 annual earnings of Manchester United stood at €366.24 million, meaning just 7.3% of the club’s earnings were injected into the transfer kitty. However, the contrasting investments of their immediate Premier League rivals papered over the cracks at United. Liverpool forked out £18 million on a questionable signing in Alberto Aquilani, in an attempt to plug the gap in midfield created by Xabi Alonso’s departure to Real Madrid.

The only notable acquisition made by Chelsea was Yuri Zhirkov, a commendable signing, but not the type of signing that sent shivers down the spine of United fans. This meant that there wasn’t an overtly catastrophic effect on United, illustrated by the fact they obtained a respectful second position the following season. While Chelsea and Liverpool’s transfers were uninspiring, there was a big long-term threat to United’s dominance much closer to home.

Their revamped rivals Manchester City, poached one of their star players, Carlos Tevez. This signified the first significant shift in financial power between the two Manchester clubs, and it only added to the woes of United. While United’s on-pitch performances didn’t suffer significantly in the following season, the Glazer’s PR did. A constant throughout the 2009/10 was the presence of green and gold attire, to represent the origins of Manchester United, Newton Heath.

This protest at the Glazer’s ownership hit its peak in March 2010, when former United star David Beckham wore an anti-Glazer scarf following a Champions League tie at Old Trafford. The fact that even Beckham, a global phenomenon backed the anti-Glazer movement was seen as a significant moment in the protests.

However, ultimately the protests were ineffective, and the momentum died down. A minority of fans had gone to the extent of forming a new football club, named FC United of Manchester. The formation of this new entity represents the level to which fans felt United’s identity had been betrayed. 

In the closing months of 2010, the Glazer’s reputation was damaged even further. In the annual financial statistics published by Manchester United, the debt surrounding the club had risen to £777.9 million. Statistically speaking, this was a 39.1% increase in United’s debt. This damning statistic embodies the immoral nature of the Glazer ownership, and the pejorative impact the American owners had on United’s finances.

While United’s finances suffered, the success of the squad continued. The 2010/11 saw United clinch their 19th title, overtaking their adversary in Liverpool. Just two years later, United were Premier League champions again, by a romping 11 point margin. However, their emphatic title win was overshadowed by the departure of their illustrious manager, Sir Alex Ferguson. Equally damaging to United was the exit of the Red Devils’ chief executive, David Gill.

As a result, Everton manager David Moyes was appointed as the first post-Ferguson manager, and Ed Woodward was promoted to the position of Chief executive. These two devastating departures came to the fore in September 2013 when David Moyes obtained only a singular signing, the Belgian midfielder Marouane Fellaini. A combination of a lack of transfer activity and the perceived incompetence of both Woodward and Moyes resulted in a disastrous seventh-placed finish for United, their lowest for 26 years.

In the aftermath of a car crash of a season, questions were once again asked regarding the lack of investment from the Glazer family. However, upon the arrival of Louis Van Gaal, United spent big in the window. A total of £175 million was injected into the squad, with big name signings such as Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao representing a real statement of intent from United.

This was a drastic increase in the financial power the Glazers provided, however, the motive surrounding it was questionable. It could be argued that challenging for titles wasn’t the Glazer’s motivation, but instead obtaining a place in the Champions League. This is due to the financial reward a place in the Champions League provides, illustrated by the fact that qualification for the group stage instantly generates €15 million.

Furthermore, United’s commercial revenue is helped by participation in the Champions League. The notion of the Glazer family settling for Champions League qualification was emphasised by the patterns of spending in the Jose Mourinho era. In Mourinho’s first season in which United did not qualify for the Champions League, £166 million was invested in the market, with United even breaking the world transfer record to sign Paul Pogba.

However, two years later, following a respectable second place finish, Mourinho was only provided with £74 million. This was in spite of United’s desperate need for a centre half, which Mourinho passionately outlined on many occasions. As a result of United’s failure to purchase a centre-back, Mourinho grew increasingly disillusioned and departed the club just four months into the season. The lack of a centre half’s arrival also confirmed to the notion that Ed Woodward was purely interested in signings that generated sponsorship revenue, which was emphasised by the pursuit of Raphael Varane.

The evidence of the last 14 years of the Glazer family’s ownership of Manchester United suggests there is a tangible need for change. The ‘#GlazerOut’ movement has gained significant traction in recent weeks, and the sentiment behind it is entirely justified. While the Glazer family is at the helm, it seems inconceivable that United will challenge for illustrious silverware such as the Premier League and the Champions League.

While United’s arch-rivals Manchester City and Liverpool are obtaining the most coveted trophies, Manchester United are falling into an abyss of mediocrity. The anti-Glazer movement must continue to be substantial, otherwise, the soul of Manchester United may be irreparably damaged.

Written by Alexei Braithwaite

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