The real-life tales of a football writer
Sir Alex Ferguson opined in his programme notes for the Newcastle game that the “one situation which clouds the new season is the continued opposition to the Glazer family.”
The United manager added that he had “no problem with the green and gold campaign” and that “fans are entitled to protest as they see fit – but not to the detriment of the team.”
The objections about United’s ownership aren’t going away and not even a man of Ferguson’s power and influence can change that. They exist because United fans have genuine and legitimate concerns abut the future of the club. They exist because fans resent the fact that the most financially successful club in world football was effectively bought on tick and plunged into a massive debt.
Many decided to ‘wait and see’ after the takeover in 2005. They saw their season tickets rise at rates higher than any other club in the Premier League to the point that the waiting list diminished and they were put on open sale this summer.
United could strike commercial deals with snake oil companies or war criminals for all fans care, but hammer them with price rises and there’ll be uproar, just as there was when United revealed their inner financial workings in January as they sort to finance a £500 million bond. That appalled not just the political fringe, but the usually tolerant supporting majority.
The green and gold campaign was spawned and it was hugely visible and effective. It won approval from most in an increasingly divided red fan base. Those divisions and intolerance of the opinions of others have been one the saddest aspects of the Glazer takeover.
The protests also made people at the club realise the extent of the opposition to the Glazer ownership, a constant and embarrassing reminder that had to be explained to visiting directors. This wasn’t a noisy minority as some in senior positions Old Trafford had claimed, but included most match going fans.
Well, seeing as you asked so nicley...
Granted, some of them didn’t know what they were protesting about. I stood outside Old Trafford Metrolink station before the Liverpool game in March with the lads selling G&G scarves. They couldn’t keep up with the demand, yet it was apparent that many buyers had little clue why they were handing over a fiver - other than because everyone else was.
It was easy to cynical about tourists wearing green and gold while clutching bags of official merchandise – but it was a simple and striking way for many to demonstrate that they wanted the Glazer family out. And it worked, to a small degree. Do you think season ticket prices would have been held if it wasn’t for the green and gold?
Still, it wasn’t high profile enough for some. Asked for his opinions about the green and gold campaign, one former United legend who still lives in Manchester replied: “The what? Never heard of it.”
The actions of some fans also baffled. One, who had made several anti-Glazer flags, found himself sharing a lift with Joel Glazer in America pre-season. What did he do? Smiled and requested a photo with him.
And Ferguson’s fear of protests having a negative effect on the team are unfounded because the campaign galvanised the all too frequently mournful Old Trafford atmosphere. Would Burnley and Hull at home in January been half as lively if the fans were stood up in full voice protesting? The players have never been targeted, nor the manager.
Many fans won’t be around to protest as they didn’t renew their season tickets, yet Old Trafford will be full more often than not - though thousands of former match going fans will now watch games in pubs or FC United at Gigg Lane. And the Glazers only have themselves to blame.
The manager has made his position clear and he clearly thinks the Glazers are terrific owners. Compared to some of the autocrats he’s worked for in the past, they probably are. The Glazers let him get with doing his job – which he continues to do exceptionally well - because they know he’s United’s greatest asset.
Ferguson is more powerful than those who employ him, but that power does not extend to stopping the fans protesting.
Will history prove them right? For that we’ll have to wait and see.
Confessions of a Correspondent
A good summary Andy. I'm still dumbfounded about the beliefs of some fans who are still prepared to 'wait and see', still lap up every morsel of PR spin emanating from the club. The divisions among the fans are as great as ever. It's unbelievably frustrating that we can't pull together as a group but its these very divisions that Glazers now live on.
Green & gold has been a great campaign to unite behind but stage II is now even more important. I get the impression that the supporters groups - equally divided at times - are not sure what that is. Another MUST poster campaign doesn't really cut it.
United fans can still bring down the Glazers. If fans were truly united there would be 20,000 season tickets on general sale, not 4,000, and the Glazers would be contemplating a sale, not a price freeze.
Intresting choice of photo Andy considering your comments, assuming that you were responsible for it.
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