Purgatory spiced with speculation, hope dulled by stasis. So it goes for Manchester United supporters, week after endless week.
It’s been almost seven months since the Glazers put the club up for sale – the ‘anniversary’ is Thursday. Yet the family stay put, still inflicting the kind of slow torture that would make Torquemada flinch, still desperate to earn every last penny before he leaves. If they leave.
At least the Glazers have been consistent. They began their 18-year reign at the club by stiffening the fans. They seem to want to come out the same way. But every week that passes without a sale risks damaging United’s chances of improving again next season. If you were the agent for a player lined up for a transfer to Old Trafford, wouldn’t you wait to see if the nearly bottomless Qataris would take over first?
The feeling, both publicly and privately, is that Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al-Thani’s Nine Two Foundation has preempted Jim Ratcliffe’s Ineos bid after making a fifth and final bid this month. That said, it’s understood the two sides were still in active and detailed discussions last week, and few behind the scenes are willing to make firm bets.
That’s partly because of the opacity of the process and the uncertainty of the Glazers’ full motives – as well as the way Raine, the US bank handling the sale, has repeatedly tried to raise the price. . Even so, most believe we are now in the endgame.
But when the fog of the takeover finally lifts and United’s new owners arrive at Old Trafford with smiles and promises, the indelible stain the Glazers have left on English football must not be outgrown or forgotten. . It’s amazing, even 18 years away, to remember that United were once a debt-free, for-profit club – before being saddled with £540million in debt just so Malcolm Glazer could become owners.
And it’s also frankly incredible that the Premier League and a Labor government saw no reason to object to Glazer using a leveraged buyout to fund his takeover – even though United fans have warned against the grim consequences. This meant Glazer only had to use £272m of his own money to buy a club valued at £810m – with the rest borrowed using company assets as collateral for the loan. Indeed, United paid for their own takeover, as well as their ongoing upkeep.
Even now, the debt is still mind-boggling. Put very simply, gross debt has gone from almost nothing before Glazers to over half a billion when they took over, then to over £700m in 2010 and now to £535.7m sterling at the start of 2023.
In essence, Glazers resemble the zombie-ant fungus seen in nature documentaries, which takes over its host and drains its vital nutrients from the inside out, to its advantage. And the host? Well, it doesn’t end well.
At least the Premier League finally seemed to recognize that such behavior is not good for the game. Last week it voted to cap leveraged buyouts at around 65% of a club’s value. , banning the type of big debt buyout used by the Glazers. What took so long?
Meanwhile, the rest of the Glazers’ record isn’t much better. You don’t need an MBA to understand that allowing David Gill and Sir Alex Ferguson – your chief executive and football’s greatest manager – to leave in the same summer was top-notch incompetence. Until then, the Glazers could use United’s success on the pitch to turn away from the club’s records. Over the past decade, however, there has been no hiding.