Thursday, July 28, 2005

What future for FCUM?

Source: The Big Tissue

So, a week on what did we make of the FCUM? Obviously on the pitch they look very impressive and their success seems assured but in the longer term what impact will they have on football?

You can take the FCUM out of United but you can't take the United out of the FCUM.

The first ting that struck me about FCUM on Saturday was how authentically United they seemed. The red and white strip looks classic Man U as did the noisy, spilling out over the sides way they filled out the Athletics End - looked just like the pictures you would see of them packing out away end on Sky games - the only difference was that this time there weren't any stewards trying to force them to sit down.

Even the players kind of mirror their big name counterparts. They have a keeper who looks very Wes Brown and their right-sided midfield Matt Hayley appears to have the same preening self-regard of David Beckham. All they need is some misshapen ginger midget in the middle and they'll have the full set.

Though it would appear to be a bigger drop for them than it was for us (or indeed AFC Barnsley) they may have less to adapt to then we did. The shift from plucky underdogs to big fish took a bit of adjusting to, but for them it's what they're used to.

I reckon that once established the people that are inclined to hate them will hate them in exactly the same way that people hate Man Utd - whereas people tend to hate AFC in a wholly different way to the way they hated Wimbledon FC.

Non-league ways.

Non-league takes some getting used to. Listening to the respective singing on Saturday it struck me how much we've been mellowed by our time in non-league. Remember when we had a reputation for giving opposition goalies a torrid time? There's no doubt that the way the AFC fans conduct themselves has gradually shifted over the three years and wonder if they'll find that happening to them.

It was striking to note on Saturday that while the far end seemed overwhelmingly male all around me on the West Bank there were women, families and even a baby.

All the feedback from the visitors is about how warm they found the welcome and what a novelty it was to have stewards who didn't instinctively treat them with suspicion. Glad they enjoyed it though wonder if after a few weeks of this some of them might wonder if things aren't all a bit too nice, just a little bit tame?

(What kind of reception will they get week in, week out? Based on our experience most clubs will welcome them with open arms though there is always that element that slightly resents you - an unwelcome intrusion on their private grief.)

Protest Songs

Despite reports of some beer leariness at their first game they behaved rather well and even contributed a few chorus of "You can stick your Milton Keynes …." Now it wouldn't have killed us to respond in kind, would it? Adapt a few of the old Charlie Koppel songs for the occasion.

Indeed a few idiots in the West Bank even tried to get some "Glazer" and "USA" taunts, which was deeply embarrassing. Luckily they wouldn't have been heard at the other end.

Interesting that while we still indulge in anti-MK stuff I couldn't make out anything that sounded a protest song from the red end. Which is a positive as FCUM was conceived just as a protest it'd be bound to fail.

(Though from most of what I read and heard on Saturday, if FCUM is a protest it is as much a protest against Rio Ferdinand as it is against Glazer. Indeed Snoop Divvy Div's relentless contract demands and unceasingly one-directional interpretation of respect could get them as many supporters as the Poison Dwarf and his imminent big cash squeeze.)

The Numbers.

Ultimately it's all about attendances. They had a decent showing at Kingsmeadow but just over 2,500 for the opening game against Leigh wasn't all that impressive.

Unlike us though they could prove to be a grower. We started big and the following years have been about trying to hold up the levels of initial interest. FCUM could be a well placed for a slow build.

The important thing is that they all seemed to enjoy it and on Saturday were able to generate an atmosphere that compensated for the drop in playing quality. If that can keep that up I think their fan base will swell rapidly.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

The Independent: Worlds apart: fanpower at work and play

Worlds apart: fanpower at work and play
Breakaway clubs trust in the new democracy
By Steve Tongue
Published: 24 July 2005

Source: The Independent

Jack Goodchild Way in Kingston upon Thames is not Sir Matt Busby Way, and the Kingsmeadow Stadium it leads to is not Old Trafford, but for the dissident Manchester United supporters getting soaked at the uncovered end yesterday in a crowd of 3,301 it was as good as the real thing. Or the increasingly unreal thing, which is how many of them now regard the former love of their lives.

"FC United. The only club in Manchester not in debt" they chorused amid all the old hymns, and did not seem at all concerned that after a goalless draw against Leigh RMI last week, the new team slipped to a 1-0 defeat by AFC Wimbledon in the Supporters Direct Trophy.

The home side, formed when their club decided to move to Milton Keynes, have, after all, been at it for three successful seasons now, losing only 10 games out of 134 and scoring almost 400 goals in reaching the Ryman Premier League - only four levels behind the MK Dons.

James Alston, 52, a genuine Mancunian, was typical of those who have thrown in their lot with the new United. A supporter since 1963, he was considering whether to renew his season-ticket or not when news came in that Rio Ferdinand had declined to sign a new contract for a reported £100,000 per week. "That was the final straw," he said, "but things have been going downhill for 20 years. Anyway, they don't want fans like me now, because I won't spend the money. They want people like my brother-in-law, who lives in Surrey, goes up for every game and spends a fortune in the Megastore. It's like the website said: 'Manchester United Glazer Supporters. Mugs'."

Supporters Direct was the obvious organisation to be associated with such a game, having backed the formation of the two breakaway clubs as fans' trusts, just as it has the setting up of almost 130 such trusts elsewhere in the country. Earlier this month Stockport County joined Brentford, Chesterfield and Rushden & Diamonds as Football League clubs owned or operated by a supporters' trust, while no fewer than 39 now have a supporters' representative on the board. Andy Burnham MP, who has just retired as chairman of Supporters Direct, has boldly predicted that by 2020 clubs owned by their fans will be in the majority.

The movement towards greater democracy in the boardroom began at Northampton Town in the Nineties, transforming a virtually bankrupt club with supporters' money and backing. Burnham was a member of the football task force which persuaded the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to set up Supporters Direct in 1999 as an umbrella organisation, encouraging similar participation by fans and the local community. At smaller clubs, from Stockport to Clydebank, the result can be ownership of the club; at larger ones - Celtic, Rangers, Arsenal and Manchester United all have trusts - the aim is to exert influence on the existing board and owners.

That strategy worked well for United in resisting Rupert Murdoch, less so once the Glazer family began hoovering up shares, proving if nothing else how vulnerable even the biggest clubs are once they become plcs. As record season-ticket sales at Old Trafford illustrate, a majority of fans will continue watching Sir Alex Ferguson's team, some of them attempting to bring economic pressure to bear by boycotting merchandise; others decided they had had enough and formed their own club.

Hence the appearance of FC United of Manchester at Leigh last Saturday and in Surrey yesterday. Pledges of support and finance have been received from some 4,000 fans. Phil French, who left the Premier League last month to become chief executive of Supporters Direct, describes the growth of trusts as "absolutely phenomenal" and says: "There are now clubs like Stockport and Rushden willingly giving their ownership over into trust control, because they see it as a viable and workable model. There are a lot of well-run clubs, but also a lot in need of improvement. And a small group of clubs are just being run into the ground. How many times have people arrived at football clubs and gambled on the finances and then walked away, leaving others to inherit the mess? I really feel we're at the crossroads of football, and if we get this right, we could change the financial landscape of English football for good."

Getting things right, in French's opinion, also involves supporters having a say in the sport's ruling body, which Lord Terry Burns's independent review of the Football Association's structure seems certain to grant when it is belatedly published next month. "If the FA is to be a body that embraces all aspects of the game," French says, "then surely there should be a representative supporters' voice at the very highest level. We've advocated representation for Supporters Direct or the Football Supporters Federation on the FA Council, but really if we are serious about change then nothing short of full board membership is required."

As to yesterday's main event: "This significant game was another piece of football history in the making. AFC Wimbledon are an example of what fans can do collectively, and I am sure FC United can learn a huge amount from their success. They are part of an ever-growing group of clubs that are democratic, not-for-profit and community-focused and we're hugely optimistic that an increasing number of clubs will adopt this model of ownership in the future."

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Daily Telegraph: The Sporting Week

The Sporting Week: We were having the time of our lives, getting our gloating in while we could
(edited from longer article)
By Jim White
(Filed: 23/07/2005)
Daily Telegraph

This afternoon in Kingston-upon-Thames, FC United of Manchester will face their biggest challenge yet when they take on that other breakaway fan-run team, AFC Wimbledon, in a pre-season friendly.

FCUM were formed immediately after the Glazer hijack of Manchester United by a group of fans who could no longer stomach the idea of supporting a club run by those with little inkling for their heritage or their meaning.

Talking this week to one of those who will be going to south-west London for the match, it became clear that for many the American takeover was the final straw. The fan spoke of his relief at no longer being emotionally tied to United. Despite being a season ticket holder for years, it was something, he felt, he should have done a long time ago. At last he was free just to enjoy a gentle afternoon's football, with none of the suffocating commercialism and nauseating self-aggrandisement of the Premiership.

This would be a match without ego and money and power, the three things that had ruined the game at the top, he said. And the best thing of all, he reckoned? This afternoon, he will not be obliged to watch Rio Ferdinand.


23 July 2005
Daily Mirror
Source: Daily Mirror

FC UNITED of Manchester can land their first piece of silverware today when they face AFC Wimbledon in the Supporters Direct Cup.

Just a month into his role as manager, Karl Marginson promises his side will put on a show for United's travelling fans in a full-house confrontation at Wimbledon's Kings-meadow Stadium.

Formed by breakaway Manchester United supporters opposed to Malcolm Glazer's takeover of the club, FC United are already on a roll.

Marginson said: "It will be a sell out. I just hope we play well and give a good account of ourselves."

AFC Wimbledon (A) 1-0

I never had a pass for this game so all pics taken from the stand...

Click the pic above for the full gallery or Click Here to see a slideshow of the same gallery:

Dons 1 FCUM 0

Source: The Big Tissue

The Dons won the Supporters Direct Cup today thanks to a goal from trialist Ricci Crace in a lively tussle with FC United. These northern teams are never easy but I don't think anyone expected a side playing in their second ever game to be as competitive as FCUM were today.

These are strange and uncertain times in the nation's capital, nothing is as it was and everybody is viewed through the light of harsh new experience. Thus today for the first time ever I was able to look at someone in a Man Utd top and not instinctively think "stupid twat."

Yes, this was indeed a momentous day. Hours before kick off the Meadow was buzzing in a very unpreseasonal way: the queue to get in was longer than those at the bars and you couldn't move for camera crews and photographer. You could tell it was a big day because our chairman had tucked his shirt in all the way round.

Once inside the travelling support filled out the Athletics End, which was a perfect venue for them to unleash all that pent up exuberance that had been building up during years of being told to sit down and shut up at Old Trafford. (In other words - they out sang us.)

First half.

This was a full-blooded contest, packed with late challenge, verbals, squarings up and generalised brawls that registered high on the handbags scale. If it had been a league game ref Steven Cook's innocent little boy's hand would still be throbbing from the blur of having to write down all the bookings.

Those that had caught the coach down from Manchester must have been proper chuffed with the steely determination to win shown by the team in red today. FCUM had come here looking to win and manager Margison didn't make an unforced substitution until the 75th minute. Rather than two teams still feeling their way and getting accustomed to their new colleagues, the first half resembled two well organised and disciplined sides who were cancelling each other.

Anderson had sent out a pretty strong team packed with mostly first teamers though it quickly became apparent that, Oops, he'd neglected to put in any creative players. The trialist wingbacks Wojciechowski and Sargent didn't venture forward much while a midfield trio of York, Moore and Woolner didn't produce much for the strikers to work with.

FCUM had the first real chance when Adie Orr snuck in unmarked at the near post from a corner. The former Man City striker would've become the first ever FCUM scorer if it hadn't been for a really excellent reaction save from our new number one Andy Little.

At the other end Smeltz nearly scored with an audacious hook over his shoulder from well outside the area. With the keeper stranded the ball just curled wide of the top corner. (That's our Shane - he don't do much but when he does it's special.)

The best chance came when a United defender's slip let in Richard Butler but he shot wide of the far post with his left foot. At the other end Orr and Hayley both failed to find the target when they were clear of the defence.

Amazing Crace.

If anything the visitors had edged the first half. Without Farr and Ursell there had been distinct lack of creativity and an absence of any kind of crossing. The situation was rectified at half time with the DA bringing on Gray and on trial strikers Ricci Crace and Ammo Kouman.

Eyebrows were raised when Anderson released both Douglas and Forrester despite them scoring three goals between them and kept the two players that had least impressed supporters in friendlies at the beginning of the week. His choices made a lot more sense after today's showing.

While the burly United defenders had few problems dealing with our first half attacks these two nippy little attackers were much more awkward for them to deal with.

On the hour we made the breakthrough. Crace broke clear down the right and finished with a cool chip over the keeper.

Barry Dazzler.

The Dons would've made it 2-0 minutes later if it hadn't been for a breathtaking save from their keeper Barry George, leaping at full stretch to pluck a firm Sobihy header out of the top corner of the net.

George pulled off another fantastic point blank save from Butler later but the stupid idiot linesman on the far side had already decided it was offside (as he would repeatedly and ever more ludicrously throughout the second half.)

The Aftermath.

The post match presentations were enlivened when chairman Kris had to interrupt his speech to take a call on his mobile from Kingstonian chairman Jimmy Cochrane - hello … bit busy now …. on the pitch for the presentation …. yep, won 1-0 thanks. (Was this some kind of sly marketing for Tuesday's match?)

On today's showing it would be hard to disagree with Kris that FCUM should have their league won by Christmas. OK they still haven't scored a goal but it's not for want of trying. Great teams are built from the defence out and they look to have that sorted - it took them 2 ½ hours to concede their first goal. When you think about where we were at this stage it's pretty startling. Who needs Ferguson when you've got Margison?

We may have won but today was their triumph.

Dons: Little; Howard, ButlerS (CooperM), Sobihy; Wojciechowski (Judge), Moore (Kouman), York, Woolner, Sargent (Gray); ButlerR (McDowall), Smeltz (Crace.)

Friday, July 22, 2005

FCUM all

Source: The Big Tissue

The first home fixture of the season sees the Dons take on the newly formed FC United of Manchester. Their second ever game should be a momentous occasion, as well as being a good opportunity for Anderson's team to continue their winning pre season in front of a packed Kingsmeadow.

Stand up if you like FCU.

There's always been a lot of talk around AFC Wimbledon about Getting It. From the very beginning fans were always concerned about if players and staff, old and new, Got It. Eames was adjudged to have Got It with a vengeance, Sully Got It even if he couldn't always cross it, while Dave Anderson was obliged to go and see A Fans' Club (twice) in an attempt to show that he was at the very least, Getting It.

But I was never really sure what It was we were supposed to be getting. I thought the AFC manifesto was that we Just Wanted To Watch Some Football, just like every other football fan.

And now along come FC United of Manchester, something a bit similar and yet very different. The media may have portrayed them as a Glazer protest move but that's really to miss the point. Ever since the start of the Premiership Man Utd has become synonymous with everything that was wrong with the English game while their fans were characterised as vacuous, journeymen gloryhunters.

Among the terracegentsia an urban myth grew up of the Decent Man Utd fan, a creature of integrity and passion that understood the needs of the wider football community and were indignant at the way their club was going, but few people really believed it.

But now they've come up with FC United, proof that some of them Get It, they really really Get It. It's a shock, but heartening, to discover that some of them dislike what Man Utd has become almost as much as the Anything but United brigade; that they haven't been bought off by the trinkets of success.

It's one thing to Get It when everything you ever loved has been hijacked and stolen away to Milton Keynes, quite another to Get It when everything you ever loved has been hijacked and stolen but is still playing in the Champions League and still called Man Utd.

There'll be many aspects to the FCUM base - those priced out of Old Trafford years ago; those who assume that they'll inevitably be priced out by GlazerSpawn's
business plan eventually; those that'll support both Uniteds and those that will only, in the words of Harry Dean Stanton in Repo Man, "come back when the place don't stink so bad" - and we salute them all.

Attention, FCUM.

Still, as much as we might admire and respect them, we'd still like to give them a bit of a thrashing. Reckon if you took a poll of our favourite moment from all those long years stuck at The Abattoir of Dreams, the moment Marcus Gayle's great Klingon expanse of forehead powered the ball past Schmeichel to gives us that 1-0 FA Cup replay win would take some beating and it would be nice to repeat that in some way.

OK it's not actually Man Utd but it is Man Utd fans and even though they're nice ones it'd still be rather good to beat them.

I know Anderson has got a dozen trialists to look over before he finalises the squad but I hope he's is going to treat this as a bit more competitive than the standard pre season friendly and is committed to winning that Supporters Direst Cup.

As they are only one game into their existence the FCUM should be takeable. Saturday's first outing, a 0-0 with Leigh RMI, was judged to be a creditable enough opening for Karl Marginson's side even though they apparently didn't manage a decent effort on target.

That game saw skipper Billy McCartney go off with a dislocated elbow. Possible United players to watch include combative midfielder Tony Coyne and ex- Scunthorpe striker Steve Torpey.

Urse Well?

After three win in four days the Dons have made a flying start to the pre season. 22 players featured in last Saturday's win 2-0 over Conference South Bognor Town and though 15 of them were playing in the Yellow and Blue for the first time the team manged to keep its shape remarkably well.

This will be many fans' first game since the Surrey Senior Cup Final at the end of April and it'll very exciting to see all the trialist and new players. Particularly interesting will be the new goalkeeper - Lennie, Little or a combo of the two - and the new central midfield pairing of Barry Moore and Matt York.

Word from the three games so far has been overwhelmingly positive. The one big negative is word seeping out that Rob Ursell has picked up an injury and will be out for 3/4 months.

If you haven't already got your ticket then get there early as the Main Stand is now sold out and only 1,500 terrace tickets remain.

Friday, July 15, 2005

MEN: FC United play the numbers game

FC United play the numbers game
Friday, 15th July 2005
Manchester Evening News
Source: MEN

HISTORY will be made at Hilton Park tomorrow when FC United of Manchester play their first game against Leigh RMI, with club officials still unsure of how much support they will attract.

With over 4,000 members and £100,000 pledged in donations since the club was formed in May as a direct result of Malcolm Glazer's £790million Manchester United takeover, the new venture is certainly not lacking backers.

But the first test of whether that sympathy will extend to actually supporting the team on the pitch is yet to come, although chairman Tony Pritchard admits crowds are unlikely to test the 11,000-capacity of their confirmed home stadium, Bury's Gigg Lane.

"We are still largely unsure of the following we are going to get," he said.

"The talk has been anywhere between 2,000 and 5,000 but until we start playing, we won't really know.

"I wouldn't pretend we are going to fill Gigg Lane but even if the crowds levelled off at 2,000, we have found a stadium which suits us perfectly."

Curiously, Gigg Lane does not have any terracing and is not in Manchester either, not exactly in line with the founders' ethos about reclaiming their club for the fans.

But when a proposed ground-share deal with Droylsden fell through, the one-year deal, based on a fixed payment per game, proved to be the best available alternative.

FC United will make their debut at the stadium in a North West Counties Division Two clash with Padiham on August 20, a match that will kick off half an hour after Manchester United are due to complete their opening Premiership home game against Aston Villa.

Before that, FC United have a symbolic trip to AFC Wimbledon, whose own officials have done so much to help the new club through their initial teething troubles, by which time manager Karl Marginson will know whether he has a squad capable of pushing for promotion at the first attempt.

Marginson's first squad includes a link with the past in former Altrincham striker Jonathan Mitten, great-nephew of Red Devils legend Charlie Mitten, plus goalkeeper Phil Priestley, who has UEFA Cup experience from his time at Bangor City.

"I will be unbelievably proud when the team runs out tomorrow," said Pritchard.

"Personally, I have been drifting away from the game at the top end for a number of seasons.

"It is not just about Malcolm Glazer, it is about the players and agents stripping cash from the game.

"I think a lot of people, who support a lot of different clubs, have been in agreement for quite a while that football is reaching the stage where something has to give.

"I wouldn't be surprised if this is the start of it."

The Guardian: Born-again United put their Mittens on

Born-again United put their Mittens on
Louise Taylor at Hilton Park
Monday July 18, 2005
The Guardian,,1530810,00.html

Spying a woman curling the match programme in the palm of her hand with seemingly casual disregard, a passer-by felt compelled to intervene. "Don't do that," he advised. "It could be your pension. When FC United reach the Premiership it'll be a piece of history."

Obtaining this potential nest-egg involved a £3 outlay but the unusually pricey non-league programme reflected a unique occasion - FC United of Manchester's inaugural match.

No matter that they failed to muster a worthwhile shot on target, FC United were a running, passing, tackling manifestation of Manchester United fans' protests against the £790m Old Trafford takeover by Malcolm Glazer. And in Paul and Jonathan Mitten, great-grandson and great-nephew of Charlie Mitten, the United left-winger in their great post-war side, they boast a proud pedigree.

A former semi-professional Altrincham forward and one-time Old Trafford season ticket holder, Jonathan Mitten fully appreciated the occasion's significance. "This new club has great potential," he said.

It will certainly be interesting to see whether the bulk of Saturday's following - who despite the lack of goalmouth action, enjoyed the novelty of being able to troop down the Hilton Park touchline and change ends at half-time - will still be around come February.

By then FC United will have played over half their fixtures in the North-West Counties League, nine rungs down from the Premiership, and some fair-weather fans will doubtless have decided that the Glazers are not so bad after all and reverted to nibbling prawn sandwiches before watching Roy Keane and co.

Although FC United have pledged to play "the United way" and Tony Coyne, their alarmingly abrasive midfield enforcer, evidently believes he is Keane incarnate, this was pie and chips football. A clear indication of the class chasm came in the second half when fans who had been chanting "Glazer's gonna die" started urging their team to "try passing the ball along the ground."

That said, the two months since their conception in a curry house have seen FC United, who will share Bury's Gigg Lane, assemble a squad unusually formidable for the North-West Counties League.

Many are boyhood Manchester United fans who have dropped down several levels to be part of something special. Steve Torpey, a well-respected Football League marksman, has swapped Scunthorpe United for FC United. Even so, Torpey is not quite Wayne Rooney and Mitten was realistic enough to opine: "I imagine a lot of our supporters will watch us as well as going to Old Trafford."

Sunday, July 10, 2005

... now start a website ...


This is punk football - well this is a website dedicated to the storage of general 'punk football' - that is people, particuarly those at FC United of Manchester, reacting against the way in which football is being taken by corporate interests.

This site is not here to offer insight or answers - just document the stuff as it happens - unless otherwise stated the photos on here are my own* - the articles generally aren't.

*the one above and in ma wee logo to the left isn't its this fellas:

Friday, July 08, 2005


Source: Dagbladet (Norway, no online content)

Tekst: Sindre Halkjelsvik Foto: Scanpix - Dagbladet papirutgave, 08.07.2005

Adolf Hitler bombet Old Trafford sønder og sammen i 1941. United-fansen frykter reprise med Malcolm Glazer som klubbeier.

KARL MARGINSON (34) og kompisene hadde den samme dagdrømmen da de for tjue år siden lekte fotball på gatehjørnene i Ancoats i Manchester. Drømmen var Manchester United Football Club.

Lokalhistorien ga ham ikke noe valg. Det var her, i hans distrikt, at helseopptatte viktorianske arbeidsgivere i 1878 lot jernbanearbeiderne stifte fotballklubben Newton Heath, som i 1902 ble til Manchester United Football Club. Åtte år seinere flyttet de røde djevlene inn på Old Trafford.

Dit kom Marginson aldri som spiller. Spiss-karrieren hans stoppet i Macclesfield og Rotherham.

Nå står han i spissen for det mange håper skal bli en ny revolusjon i Manchester.

- Jeg elsket ideen om FC United. Jeg er jo sjøl

United-supporter. Jeg kommer fra Ancoats og spilte på banene som Newton Heath brukte hundre år tidligere. Det er spesielt for meg å være med fra start i noe som skal bli en del av historien, sier Marginson. 260 spillere møtte nylig opp for prøvespill foran amatørlagets første sesong. De vil bygge seg opp etter samme mønster som AFC Wimbledon - utbryterklubben fra Gjelsten og Røkkes engelske fotballhavari i Milton Keynes.

På generalforsamlingen 5. juli håper FC United å velge Eric Cantona som president. Hjemmekampene skal de spille på Butcher's Arms Ground, men den viktigste kampen er og blir mot pengemakta til Malcolm Glazer.

- Ja, det er folk som protesterer og som ikke vil gå på Old Trafford på grunn av ham. Men dette handler ikke bare om Malcolm Glazer. Mange andre føler at de har mistet alle muligheter de siste åra. Enten fordi det har blitt for dyrt å gå på kamp eller fordi de ikke klarer å reorganisere livene sine fordi tidspunktene for TV-kampene endres hele tida, sier Andy Walsh, talsmann for gruppa som kaller seg Independent Manchester United Supporters' Association (IMUSA).

Han legger til: - Vi håper at det vi skaper her, vil gi disse menneskene mulighet til å bli involvert i spillet igjen.

OPPKJØPSMOTSTANDERNE i IMUSA og den andre store protestgruppa, Shareholders United, har lent seg på viktige støttespillere som Ole Gunnar Solskjær. Som første aktive spiller takket nordmannen i februar ja til å støtte kampen mot oppkjøpet. Siden har Ryan Giggs, Rio Ferdinand og Alex Ferguson gått ut offentlig mot Glazer.

- Grupper som Shareholders United kan bare være bra for fotballen. Jeg ber inntrengende United-fans om å involvere seg, skriver Ferguson på Shareholders hjemmeside.

Det har ikke hjulpet stort. Tirsdag 28. juni var nok en sorgens dag for idealistene.

Gjennom selskapet sitt Red Football kjøpte Glazer seg da opp til over 97,6 prosent av aksjene i Manchester United. Det ga ham rett til å tvangsinnløse resten av aksjene eid av hardnakkede Glazer-motstandere blant United-fansen.

DET HAR LANGT fra vært billig moro: Siden Glazer kjøpte de første 2,3 prosentene i mars 2003 har oppkjøpet kostet 9,5 milliarder kroner (790 millioner pund). Men Glazer er ingen Abramovich som bare går i banken - eller i nattbordskuffen - og henter en milliard når han trenger den.

Glazer har lånt så mye og så dyrt at United i realiteten er eid av bankene.

Den amerikanske banken JP Morgan har utstyrt Glazer med 6,5 milliarder kroner (540 millioner pund) og seinere spredd lånene på flere banker. Finansieringen er delvis gjort med sikkerhet i Uniteds eiendeler - først og fremst storstua Old Trafford.

I United-styret sitter nå Glazers sønner Joel, Avram og Bryan. De ble regelrett angrepet da de første gang viste seg i Manchester forrige uke. Men verre enn som så: De kan knapt gjøre vedtak uten å gå gjennom et superstyre av bankfolk. Låneavtalen med JP Morgan regulerer så godt som alle sentrale beslutninger og er så detaljert at selv begrensningene på de ansattes pensjonsavtaler er ført i pennen.

Her ligger kimen til oppkjøpsmotstandernes dommedagsprofeti. Glazer har smadret Uniteds unike posisjon som gjeldfri i en bransje av gjeldslaver.

Hva skjer den dagen resultatene svikter og økonomien går samme veien? Svært få - om noen - i Manchester innbiller seg at Glazer da lar en mulig fotballinteresse gå foran kyniske forretningshensyn. Svært mange i Manchester - kanskje alle - er sikre på at Glazer da forsvinner med det han kan få med seg og lar United og Old Trafford ligge like forsvarsløse som da Görings Luftwaffe slapp lasten sin 11. mars 1941.

MEN KAN VIRKELIG mektige Manchester United ende som Leeds United, som ble tvunget til spillersalg og påfølgende nedrykk som følge av 1,2 milliarder kroner (103 millioner pund) i gjeld?

Hvor virkelig er frykten? Sannsynligvis temmelig falsk.

Med full kontroll står Glazer endelig fritt til å omplassere de kostbare kortsiktige lånene for å redusere renteavdragene. Dernest handler det om forretningsplanen. Inntektene skal opp. Det skal skje slik, ifølge foreløpig ikke bekreftede dokumenter avisa The Times har sett:

Totalinntektene skal økes fra 1,94 milliarder kroner (161,5 millioner pund) i år til 2,95 milliarder kroner (245,6 millioner pund) i 2010. Det utgjør en økning på 52 prosent. Kampdaginntektene skal økes med 61 prosent.

Gjennomsnittsprisen på billettene ligger nå på 30 pund. Glazer planlegger å øke billettprisen med 54 prosent de neste fem åra. Men det spørs om 68 000 seter på Old Trafford lar seg fylle på en kald og sur tirsdagskveld om det koster 600 kroner for å se en kamp mot Portsmouth. Men salget av sesongbilletter foran kommende sesong sier litt om potensialet. Prisen er økt med ti prosent (snittpris 6740 kroner) og antallet sesongbilletter er økt til 42 500. Midt i juni hadde salget passert 40 000. Dette skjer tross oppkjøpsprotestene og det faktum at billettprisene allerede har økt med rundt 50 prosent de siste fem åra.

Medieinntektene skal økes med 13 prosent (TV-rettigheter). Glazer ser stort potensiale i å selge egne TV-rettigheter og bryte med avtalegrunnlaget Premier League-klubbene står sammen om. Her er det imidlertid lang vei å gå - ikke minst juridisk. Varesalget og andre kommersielle aktiviteter skal økes med 76 prosent (United tjente for eksempel bare 108 millioner kroner (ni millioner pund) på salg i utlandet i fjor. Her er Glazer allerede i gang. Kjøpet av Ji-Sung Park fra PSV vil for eksempel blåse draktsalget i Sør-Korea til himmels.

Andre tiltak som vurderers er kasino ved Old Trafford, McDonalds-butikker på stadion og salg av hele Old Trafford. DET SKAL SPILLES litt fotball også. Dette handler fortsatt om idrett. Gjør det ikke? Kommende sesong må det presteres bedre enn de siste to sesongene. Det betyr spillerkjøp. Og mer pengesnakk:

Ferguson - og hans etterfølger - får ifølge ubekreftede tall 300 millioner kroner (25 millioner pund) i året netto til spillerkjøp fram til 2014. Dette er ikke mye om Ferguson skal lykkes i å bygge en tredje generasjon med suksess.

De siste fire sesongene har klubben tre ganger brukt mer enn den summen til sammen på én spiller. Seba Veron kom for 348 millioner kroner (29 millioner pund) i 2001, Rio Ferdinand for 360 millioner kroner (30 millioner pund) i 2002 og Wayne Rooney kostet 359 millioner kroner (29,9 millioner pund) i august i fjor.

Samtidig er overgangsmarkedet generelt noe lavere priset nå. Og Chelsea er aleine om å ha mer å rutte med per sesong enn United. Der er til gjengjeld kassa bunnløs. Og de aller beste superstjerner er fortsatt svindyre. Chelsea bød Barcelona 841 millioner kroner (70 millioner pund) for Ronaldinho i fjor. Nå prises brasilianeren til 1,2 milliarder kroner (100 millioner pund).

Dette er beløp Glazer - en mann som istedenfor å bygge en ny trapp til stranda si, fortsatt krangler med naboen om eierretten til den gamle trappa - neppe er villig til å risikere.

MALCOLM GLAZER (77) er sønn av et jødisk ektepar fra Litauen som kom til USA i 1915 og slo seg opp på salg av klokkedeler. Glazer kom inn i familiebedriften i 1943 og har siden han tok over firmaet utvidet til blant annet eiendom, fisk, hurtigmat, lokal-TV og pleiehjem for eldre. Han er USAs 278. rikeste mann ifølge Forbes-lista for 2004 og bor i Palm Springs i Florida. 75 prosent av formuen på 5,1 milliarder kroner skal være bundet opp i eierskapet til Tampa Bay Buccaneers - den amerikanske fotballklubben han kjøpte opp i 1992.

Han gir så godt som aldri intervjuer - helt i tråd med familieselskapets strategi om at det er bortkastet tid å prøve å overvinne pressen, og at det er en tabbe å la offentlige flertallsytringer styre beslutningene.

Han er familiekjær - mot sine aller nærmeste. Han har alle de seks sønnene og familiene deres boende nært seg.

Men i forretninger framstår han ofte som knallhard. Svært ofte er selskapene hans involvert i rettssaker. Britisk presse tolker dette konsekvent som at mannen er hensynsløs. I USA tolkes det heller som om han - og sønnene - er drivende dyktige:

- Han er en god forretningsmann. Det er ingen synd, sier familievennen og advokaten Beryl Nusbaum.

OG KANSKJE ER DET en slik mann Manchester United trenger for å komme seg ut av blindgata de har spilt seg inn i de to siste sesongene. United-ekspert Stuart Mathieson er inne på den tanken i kommentarene sine i Manchester Evening News. Han minner om at det først var etter at United kom på børs i 1991 at gullalderen begynte på banen også.

Og hadde ikke billettprisene økt som de har gjort de siste fem sesongene, hadde kanskje ikke klubben hatt råd til å kjøpe spillere som Ferdinand, Ronaldo og Rooney. Hvor hadde klubben vært i dag da?

Malcolm Glazer har bygd formuen sin i USA sjøl. Han er en velkalkulert forretningsmann som neppe går inn i Manchester United for å tape penger.

Idealistene tror fortsatt at fotball på dette nivået handler om noe annet - og større - enn den rikeste mannens rett. Ære være dem for det, men de har det neppe like moro som realistene som gir blaffen i hvem som eier og styrer de røde djevlene, og bare går på kamp for å se laget sitt vinne - med de beste spillerne i riktig drakt.

Imens trener Karl Marginson og gutta for ligaåpningen midt i august, mens Shareholders United har gått i sparemodus - bokstavelig talt. De bygger nå opp et fond som skal være klart til aksjekjøp på den ytterste dag - det vil si den dagen Glazer eventuelt gir opp kontrollen.

Shareholders' talsmann Nick Towle er i knestående, men det er også alt:

- Vi gir oss aldri. Vi vil vise Glazer at vi ikke bare har tenkt å legge oss ned og dø.

Kilder: Manchester Evening News, BBC,

The Times, Guardian, Indipendent, Observer,

St. Petersburg Times,,, «Vi gir oss aldri. Vi vil vise Glazer at vi ikke bare har tenkt å legge oss ned og dø.» Nick Towle, talsmann for Shareholders United

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