Club Prepares For Floatation, But Fears Of Sinking Unfounded


By Nathan Thomas.

The archetype close-season melee that seems always to stalk United during ‘silly-season’ has proved to be no different so far in 2012. Once again, United have found themselves linked with a large and heterogeneous group of players from all across the globe. Worryingly though, for some, thus far these rumours have been just that – rumours. United have obtained two highly promising acquisitions in the guise of Nick Powell and Shinji Kagawa, the latter being a particularly exciting prospect; however, on the face of  it United have yet to bring in the calibre of player that the majority feel we need to keep tabs on our cross city rivals.

With Eden Hazard joining a seemingly ever-growing list of players United could have had, but missed out on – this has given some cause for concern. The release of United’s formal report to the New York stock exchange ahead of a club floatation has done nothing more than add fuel to the fire of the belief that United are undoubtedly hamstrung by the £423 million debt that is currently saddled to the club. Admittedly, in the IPO report, the Glazers were required to list the worst-case scenario; that does not make it any less dire to read. The word ‘indebtedness’ is featured over 40 times in 192 page article; within the article the Glazers also, for the first time in their seven tenure at Old Trafford, admit what the likes of M.U.S.T (Manchester United Supporters Trust) and the anti-Glazer faction have used as the fulcrum of their battle against American business tycoons. This is of course that United’s ‘indebtedness’ may eventually prohibit their competitiveness. There is no specific affix of ‘transfer market’ or ‘on-pitch matters’ but the prohibition of competiveness would to most quantify the two together.

Disconcerting as it is, this is no more than we already knew/suspected. It is an admission that the owners need financial assistance in servicing the colossal debt, but it is not a statement that suggests United are currently suffering.  Going back to the aforementioned case of Eden Hazard, the money was evidently there as Hazard was given a substantial offer. Just because Hazard opted to go to Chelsea does not necessarily mean he went for the money as some said in a knee-jerk manner. How utterly ridiculous is that? He chose to go to the European Champions – shame on him. I admire the work that M.U.S.T do but at times, they are as parasitical as they paint the Glazers to be; they feed off any bit of negative press and manipulate it into a way of damning the owners in my opinion.

As sensationalistic as I believe M.U.S.T can be, United’s recent transfer policy is a cause of constant bemusement. The club’s policy of not commenting on transfer-speculation, added to the fact that David Gill has become increasingly less communicative makes it somewhat unfathomable to dissect United’s recent transfer failings. How can it be that a club of our stature, debt ridden or not, can miss out on players in the calibre of Ozil, Sneijder, Hazard and even the likes of van der Vaart and Kabaye. On bare facts alone, it would not be completely haphazard – no pun intended – to point to a lack of financial muscle.

Is it all down to money though? Mesut Ozil falls into a similar category of that of Eden Hazard, although United’s interest was less clear-cut in the German than it was in the social-network supremo Hazard; Ozil’s ultimate switch to Real Madrid could be as much about playing for one of the most prestigious clubs in the world as it could have done money. It was patently evident that any prospective more for Wesley Sneijder, in the summer of 2011, hinged on United’s policy not to spend big on a player deemed near, or at, his peak. I see it as an admirable policy, particularly after watching 30 million pound striker Dimitar Berbatov flatter to deceive over the past four years. Based on Sneijder’ s dismal season for both club and country, it appears United were probably wise not to broker a deal. However, it is principle we are talking about here – not player.

Could it be possible that United are falling behind in austere times such as this? Even though I have given my assessment, it could be equally ascertained that – to quote Facejacker parlance – ‘it’s all about the monies’. However, it is important to note that United have missed out on players in the pre-Glazer era; Patrick Kluivert and Ronaldinho being two wonderful players that slipped the grasp of Ferguson and United.  In the instance of Ronaldinho, Ferguson blamed then Chief Executive Peter Kenyon for pussyfooting around instead of being decisive and getting the deal done. This highlights, in the case of an owner/head of business operations, you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Now, at this stage it would be worth pointing out that I do no attest to have any great financial knowledge and there are people out there far better placed to take you through the monetary woes of the club – Andy Green being the standout candidate. His brutally honest views are always very informative, but do not make for comfortable reading. It is difficult to defend anybody who saddles their business with over 400 (was previously 750) million pounds worth of debt, and for those factions of the anti-Glazer contingent, currently frothing as I list even the slightest hint of Glazer defence, that is not the point of this piece. I am merely casting my own personal opinion – whether you deem it ill-informed or not. Throughout the Glazers tenure, I have remained strictly perched on the creosote – wary about nailing my colours to either mast.

Aiming vitriol at the clubs owners/chairmen has always been done, at least since the days of Louis Edwards. Being in such an important position on the good-ship Manchester United is bound to bring in a tirade of abuse, as everyone has their own idea of how ‘their’ club should be run. The debt is the crux of the angst directed towards the Glazers and it is understandable that fans should be concerned. I am no different; with Manchester City possessing unlimited riches and a championship to boot, it is understandable that fans should want to vent their anger in the direction of a negative aspect of the club. From where I see it, the Glazers should never have been allowed to buy the club in the first place if they were forced to take such an obscenely large loan, but this is modern day finance and it’s rather left-of-field set of house rules. The fact remains however, that the Glazers bought the club and we are in this position whether we like it or not.

At the very least it appears the Glazers are being proactive in their quest to write-off United’s debt, more to the point it appears they also have time on their hands given that Ferguson has recently professed that he would like to see a further three new-faces enter the revolving door of Old Trafford.

To conclude, I am not trying to paint a rosy picture, I am fully aware as any fan that situation at the club is hardly ideal. Having the club at the hands of one mogul to play with as he wishes is extremely undesirable, especially given the way in which they are within their rights to invest club money into their own personal ventures. However, this is modern day football and it is as intrinsically intertwined with business as it is with 11 men on a grassy knoll. Still, as I stated earlier on in this piece, I am speaking from the point of view of financial novice, a lover of football and a purist of sport. My assertion is based on little more than personal experience; what I have heard and read. I have yet to be told a piece of information that swings my judgement categorically in one direction – I am more than willing to listen to your views.

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  1. Richard Cann on

    Top article mate. As you say, it would be naive to share that the debt has had no effect on spending. However, there is a large group of fans who have become so bitter that Glazer hate has overtaken love for United. Every rumour or utterance from the club is jumped upon and twisted to support the idea that we are doomed to bankruptcy. The reality is that our wage policy and size as a % of turnover is exactly the same as the plc days. Many talk as if, Pre 2005, we just clicked our fingers and world class players fell at our feet. The reality is that we’re doing ok, are clearly looking to recruit more players and have already signed one of the biggest talents in world football. Everything isn’t perfect but I expect the 11 men in red perform really well next season. These are exciting times.

    Anyway, top article. Really enjoyed it.

    • Thank you mate, glad you enjoyed it. Like I said, I’m no financial expert, but I just gave my honest perception of evens – as I have seen them – over the past seven years. My argument is not fallproof, set a sound financial critic on me and they would probably tear it to bits. Still, it’s easy to get dragged on to the L.U.H.G bandwagon from a point of singing vitriolic songs with your mates – I never bought into that. I care about United, as do the majority of real-fans and I felt something as big as this warranted real thought. As it stands I’m still rooted to the fence.

      As you put it yourself, the club is not perfect, times have changed and so has football. However, in the spite of all the doom and gloom you read about the Glazer ownership, I can’t help but feeling it is being somewhat over-hyped.

      Last season was the first time in eight that we won nothing. It could be argued that this will be the Glazers toughest test and will highlight their intentions and credentials once and for all.

  2. if some reports are right and the IPO could bring in upto £400m (or as little as £64m) if that money is used to pay off the debts (or at least a large chunk of them) they will win alot of fans over.

    we have thrown £500m (reportedly) away because of the debts which must of had some impact on signing players.

    the Glazers are hate because of the way they bought the club and then the lack of overall spending.

    its been clear since 2009 that we have need to add 2 midfielders and every summer ends in disappointment.

    for me its not about the lack of world class signings its about the lack of signings in areas where we need help.

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