Sir Alex Ferguson: Glazer Puppet? Or Playing The Long Game?
By Mr. Grant
Sir Alex Ferguson’s apparent “defence” of the Glazer family continues to divide the Manchester United support, and, following his latest offering, there is an increasing sense of vitriol and opposition among factions of the fans. The opposition comes from all manner of our fan-base; from those with a genuine sense of hurt and confusion; to those with a voice who perceive their opposition to SAF as something of a status symbol which places them on a higher intellectual plan to the rest of us; which elevates them above us because they are not “sheep” willing to accept, but they are “brave” and “big enough” to challenge and criticise, to the point where, that urge to stand out with a critique evolves in to a warped obsession (I could name names, but…). SAF is not above criticism, far from it, but he deserves far more than the contempt and delusional ranting of a support to whom he has given so much. And I’m sure that in writing this I “risk” being labelled the very kind of blind sheep some are so quick to brand anyone who might vest their energy in defence of Ferguson, but by whom? Those whose ranting is underpinned by a nonsensical and delirious urge to criticise Ferguson, irrespective of circumstances or the situation? Well, I care not what branding may be bestowed upon me by the unhinged.
I find the short sighted nature of those quick to persecute Ferguson for his public position on the Glazer family and their stewardship of the club, nothing but galling. And this is not because I’m a Glazer advocate; I am anything but. It is only by the genius of Ferguson that the Glazer family have not wrought disaster on our club and the day when they are banished cannot come quickly enough. The debt burden imposed by their take-over, and the well documented costs that we, as a club, must pay and sacrifice to what will likely be the end to which they aim; that they walk away with a gross profit, into their American sunset, disgusts me. The club has shipped £500million in interest payments, bond buybacks and so forth, simply in order to fund their stewardship, and as has been documented once and a million times over, that money could, and should have been invested directly into the playing staff, from the top end down. Indeed, were it not for the Glazers, then United would likely be the only club on the planet capable of matching anything spent by a City, Chelsea or PSG, but only, doing so within their means and while doing so, continuing to turn out a profit. The size of the club is staggering. As such, the question begs, how good might things be, or have been in recent years (putting trophies won to one side), were it not for the Glazers? In truth, looking back we’ll never know, and it’s a tragedy which is marred even more so by the fact that it has left Ferguson, in his twilight years, fighting the emergence of the billionaire clubs with their billionaire owners seriously curtailed, with one hand firmly tied behind his back. It is down solely to the genius of the man that United have continued to prosper in spite of the constraints imposed upon him, and the club, by the Glazer ownership.
Which takes me full circle, back to Ferguson. Do those so quick to seize on Ferguson’s every word when he delivered his latest public “support” to the Glazer family, with the vitriol of rabid dogs, really believe that Ferguson is happy with the position that they, as owners, have inflicted upon the club? Do they really believe that here, at the sunset of a glittering career, he is content that the club can no longer compete, financially, at the top table, and not because it’s incapable, but because of the nature of the constraints placed upon it by its owners? Do they really believe that he’s happy to be fighting these emerging multi-billionaire forces constrained and hamstrung? Do they really believe that Ferguson is happy with what the Glazer family have done to the club? That he’s “sold out”. They believe it? Really? I mean… really? Because if so, well, then the inability to look beyond what the man says publicly and frame it against the context of this bigger picture is quite staggering. I would take those fans (and fans who care they me be), and file them swiftly under a category reading “moronic ineptitude ”.
The same moronic ineptitude which has drummed up a number of laughable conspiracy theories, which include the notion that the Ferguson position is in order to protect his £6.5million per annum salary. I find it incomprehensible that anyone, far less the United support, would believe that a man who has achieved so much and who lives and breathes the club and the game, would, in the twilight of his career, be more concerned with raking in a few more coin than he would the club. He does not need the money. He’s earned more than he’ll ever need. It’s lunacy, it’s laughable and it’s an insult.
But this is just one of a number of theories which seek to both rationalise and castigate the Ferguson position which, when challenged, do not hold sway. I have yet to see one theory which stands firm against any form of rational assessment and which can’t be easily dismantled. Another one: “Ferguson favours the retention of the Glazer ownership over the half £billion debt and the serious constraints this places upon the club and its and his ability to compete, because <drum roll> the Glazers do not meddle in transfer selection or team selection (ala Roman, down at Stamford Bridge).” This, I would contend, goes beyond the ridiculous to the ludicrous, to the point that it doesn’t warrant response.There can never be a case of “better the devil you know”, when the devil you know brings with it such immoral tyranny as the Glazers in my opinion.
We also have those calling for Ferguson to publicly challenge the Glazers; to open fire with a hail of criticism; to attack and to oppose; to lead a fans revolt. First, what other support expects its manager to lead a public revolt versus its owners? None. It’s unheard of. It is, again, ludicrous. Why? Because there would only be one winner. Ferguson is in no position to challenge the Glazers and emerge victorious. He is in no position to sink their regime or to force a sale. They are not Martin Edwards. There is no Board behind him. The Glazers run the Board. If Ferguson was to publically oppose them and enter in to open warfare, then given his end is near in any case, and given the total control they have over the club, he would most likely be gone. The club would be thrown in to turmoil and no matter the net effect, the damage would be near catastrophic. If he spoke out now, what damage might that cause to the IPO, a move which, like it or not, has been designed specifically to ease the debt burden in order to increase our ability to compete? To what end would an SAF revolt bring us? Would it force a Glazer sale? Given the size of the club and the money it generates? Absolutely no chance. It may be damaging, but it would not be a terminal blow to the Americans. The club, with the Glazers, would go on, only perhaps with a genuine “yes man” in place instead of SAF. And one which, as with nearly all other humans on the planet, would not be able to deliver the success that Ferguson has, with the constraints imposed upon him by the Glazers. And so, at best, the club would be on the slide, perhaps going full circle, back to whence we came pre-Ferguson, or akin to that, to an end like Liverpool. Look at them now. And so for Ferguson, the only way to fight this enemy is from within. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer and play the long game because the Glazers will not be going anywhere any time soon.
And thus my position on this is clear; Ferguson offers public support to the Glazer family for good reasons, and these are good reasons which, framed against the backdrop of the Glazer business model are effectively self-sacrificial and which are focused on the short, medium and longer-term health of the club. His latest offering was delivered, without doubt, in order to aide a successful IPO. If the IPO is a success, the debt burden will be significantly reduced and with it, the United ability to compete for top players and for major trophies will be significantly enhanced. This is for the good of Manchester United, Glazers or no Glazers. A man in Ferguson’s position, with his stature and legend, speaking out in support of the Glazer family and their running of the club can only aide a successful IPO, which again, is crucial to United. Ferguson knows this. And to this end, he is willing to risk the wrath of a fractured support because, in the grand scheme of things, he has said what he has said ultimately, for the greater good of Manchester United with a long-term view of re-placing it back to the position where it belongs; competing at the top, as the best, with the rest of the best, for the biggest prizes in our beautiful game, WITHOUT CONSTRAINT. Ferguson is playing the long game here, even if he as an individual does not have long left. His life is Manchester United and he is willing to be seen to be opposing the support, irrespective of what that support then thinks of him, if to an end that ultimately benefits the club. It is not rocket science.
This, of course, is just my view, and hey, it may be skewed by my heritage as an Aberdonian Red whose first football memories were of Ferguson leading an Aberdeen team to European glory, but I would stand this logic against anything I’ve seen which might oppose it to date and be clear in my conviction that this rationale is not just prevalent, but it is correct. SAF is one of us, and, while he may have many facets we do not like, and while he may not be the best at articulation, and while he may make mistakes, he has a plan for the good of us all, for the good of the club, and he deserves infinitely better than some of the bile currently thrown his way by the United support.
The inglorious end.