Glazers out. That’s what we all want, and Ed Woodward, he should leave too. What does that actually mean though? What could we realistically expect to see happen if a ‘For Sale’ sign appeared outside Old Trafford tomorrow morning?
The ideal, of course, would be fan ownership, similar to the model practised by most German Bundesliga clubs. Unfortunately, the historic precedent that existed in Germany up until 1998 in which a club could not be owned by anyone other than its own members simply did not exist in England, so for many years now clubs have been owned by whoever put up the cash to buy them. When you consider that the current valuation of Manchester United, according to Forbes, is £3b, the chances of a supporter group clubbing together to meet the asking price are pretty slim.
So who does have the spare cash to buy Manchester United? Not me, although I’m working on it, and probably not any of you either, which pretty much leaves Russian oligarchs, Saudi royals and American tech billionaires. You could look at Chelsea and draw the conclusion that having a wealthy Russian in the chairman’s office wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing until you googled ‘oligarchs unexplained wealth’ and counted the number of times the word Russia appears on the US government SDN sanction list (I’ll save you the trouble, it’s 3,328). Marbella FC are owned by a Russian oligarch – he was arrested in 2017, along with 10 other suspected Russian mafiosi, in relation to organised crime and money laundering on the Costa del Sol.
What about the Saudi’s? Could they be any worse? Well, yes, they’d be exponentially worse. Saudi Arabia has an unbelievably bad human rights record which would surely taint Manchester United’s international image. The sportswashing that goes on at Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain works because neither of those clubs had a global reputation to uphold, United, on the other hand, are a very different proposition.
Then would American owners be a safer bet than the Russians and Saudis? Probably, if they were interested. The likes of Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos are not the ruling elite of an absolute monarchy, nor do they appear to have amassed their wealth in mysterious circumstances, they just don’t seem to have any particular desire to invest in Premier League football. The tech billionaires who have purchased sports teams have focused on indigenous franchises, perhaps in a bid to secure their legacy in the eyes of the American sporting public, the majority of whom couldn’t give a tinker’s cuss about the Champion’s League but have a massive interest in the NBA finals and the Superbowl.
Another possible alternative involves a group of businessmen with similar interests securing finance in order to leverage a buyout, but that would never be allowed to happen to one of the worlds biggest and most prestigious football teams…
Seriously though, most fans don’t want a mega rich sugar-daddy to bankroll the club, we just want the vast sums of money that the club already makes to be re-invested in the infrastructure. If the Glazers did decide to up sticks and bolt, my hope is that a small consortium of wealthy investors can put together enough of their own money to buy the club and pay off the debt. This way, the new owners will still recoup their outlay whilst leaving enough cash to maintain a competitive squad and modernise Old Trafford, which is far from the flagship English football ground it once was.
After removing the owners and secured the club’s future, United need to do something about the CEO. In theory there is nothing wrong with having an individual from a finance background securing sponsorship deals and maximising profit potential, but that man should have no involvement whatsoever in talent procurement. If Ed Woodward isn’t interested in working for new owners in a reduced capacity, it would be no loss – a successful team would attract sponsors anyway.
What United do need, as a matter of urgency, is a Director of Football. Someone with the knowledge, expertise and experience to evaluate scouting reports, take a hard line with agents, and work with the management team to not only identify suitable players but get the transfers over the line without the unnecessary, protracted horse-trading that we saw this summer. I don’t believe that giving the job to an ex-player because he ‘gets’ the club is the way forward, I’d much rather offer the job to someone with a proven track record who has transformed the fortunes of a club with smart, intelligent buys that perfectly compliment the manager’s vision. United could do much worse than offer to double the salary of Kevin Thelwell, who is currently doing an astonishing job with Wolverhampton Wanderers. Given that Kevin’s career to date has taken him from Preston North End to Derby County and now Wolves the natural progression would suggest a ‘top six’ job is next on the list. I reckon we should get him onboard now, before one of our traditional rivals does.
All of the above is hypothetical of course, as there is no sign of the Glazers letting go of their cash cow anytime soon, but if/when it does happen the new owners, whoever they may be, will have the one resource that every other club on earth would give their right arms for: the biggest and most loyal fanbase of any sports team on the planet. We’ve been here through thick and thin, through wars, financial crises, scandal and tragedy and we’ll still be here long after the last Glazer has been lowered into into his final resting place. Manchester United will once again reach the pinnacle of English and European club football, and when it happens we’ll appreciate it that bit more because of the times we’re living through right now.
Keep the faith Red Devils! Trust me, it’ll be worth it.