Source: Manchester Evening News
June 29, 2009
RIOT police wielding batons, angry protests, makeshift barriers being erected by fans to stop an escape from Old Trafford and a final dash from the stadium in blacked out police vans - that was the Glazer family's welcome to United four years ago.
The Stars and Stripes was hurriedly hoisted above Old Trafford's famous stands to welcome the sons of new owner Malcolm Glazer as they looked around the acquisition that their dad had bought for them to run.
They were given a guided tour, conducted their one-and-only TV interview, or media interview of any sort, with the club's station MUTV, then jetted back home to in Florida.
The Glazers left behind them the world's most famous club in turmoil. There was suspicion, bitterness, outrage and anger.
Overnight the owners of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had saddled a successful football club with £600m worth of debt.
The support was confused and concerned. The vocal anti-Glazer brigade was already fed up with corporate Old Trafford. They had chronic indigestion brought on by prawn sandwiches.
They may not have liked ex-chairman Martin Edwards, may have been uncomfortable with a Plc, might have been dubious about chief executives Peter Kenyon and David Gill's motives but being bought by a US family and immediately saddling the club with an astonishing debt was the last straw.
Some broke off to form FC United. Others ditched their long-held season tickets and vowed never to return to watch their beloved Reds.
Others couldn't tear themselves away from a lifelong love affair with Manchester United and with a heavy heart stayed on to support the players and not the club.
There were also the 'suck it and see' brigade who were prepared to reluctantly give the Glazers a chance and if the trophies and big-name players continued to come to Old Trafford then they'd stick around and let the businessmen worry about everything else.
If the stadium's name was untouched and Sir Alex Ferguson was given a free rein to buy and sell who he wanted, then they'd shelve their concerns over the debt.
For many, the financial side was too complicated to get their heads around and so long as United were at the forefront of English and European football and challenging for the superstar signings and top prizes, then bank loans and hedge funds was a language they didn't want to get involved with.
There were also the day trippers who would remain 'loyal' so long as they could make their annual or twice year trip to Manchester, stock up at the Megastore, see their heroes in the flesh and return home laden with memorabilia and keep pledging their allegiance to the most successful side in the country. It was an unstable period with varying moods of ambivalence, hatred and hostility.
Once back across the Pond, MUTV aired the Glazers' interview on June 30 2005.
The family spokesman was Joel Glazer who told the station: "Being involved in sports, being an owner in sports, nothing can prepare you for that. I think we've seen that here, it's something you learn as you go along. But the thing I think you appreciate and you learn as you go along is how important this club is to the community and to the country.
"So you have to take that very seriously, you have to show your commitment on the pitch. I think, the supporters appreciate if you're doing everything you can to put a successful team on the pitch.
"I think people are forgiving if they know you are doing that, you're letting people know what they're doing, whether it be, the football manager making those decisions, or be the chief executive making his decisions, give them the tools, give them what they need to do their jobs, which has always been the case here.
"We're just gonna carry that on and make sure they have what they need, and then the rest usually takes care of itself.
"We are gonna provide the manager with the resources necessary to field the best team on the field.
"So again when I read about caps and hands being tied it's very frustrating, absolutely not true we are there to provide the manager what he needs to compete at the highest and to win at the highest level.
"In any sport you can't plan to have caps. Situations arise, things change you have to.
"We will not get involved with this from the start unless we can compete at the highest level not having our hands tied, so when you read about that you get kind of very upset you wanna let people know that's not the case.
"The way this club has been operating in the past is gonna be the way it's gonna operate in the future. And one of the other great things about this club is when they've gone to in the transfer market it's been for the right reasons not just to do it for the sake of a headline and that will continue.
"The other great thing about this club is the history, the academy and bringing up young players through the academy on to the pitch. There's a connection with that kind of situation that you don't get anywhere else and it's because the player grew up with the club and the connection has always been there and that's special.
"I know that that is a priority of this club and that will continue."
It didn't exactly calm the mood totally and a great deal of suspicion remains but you can hardly say they've lied with their promises. The Glazers walked into an on-field transitional period at the club that was none of their making. The Reds were knocked out of the Champions League, finishing bottom of their group, six months after the controversial takeover.
There was upheaval in the dressing room with Roy Keane quitting and Ruud van Nistelrooy being told to leave.
But the Glazers remained silent, gave Fergie carte blanche to do what was needed to take the club into another era.
Their silence may have annoyed fans and irritated journalists but nobody could accuse them of meddling.
They turned up for the big occasions and went home.
Inevitably, there were season ticket increases, but likely as not they would have happened anyway, but new players arrived and Fergie was given the materials to mould another successful chapter for the club.
Three Premier League titles, a European Cup and two Carling Cups have made their way to Old Trafford since the Glazers arrived.
If you had been transported to a desert island before the takeover upheaval and returned once the new regime was underway, chances are that in June 2009 you wouldn't notice much of a difference at Old Trafford.
Of course, that £600m debt, still hangs over the club like a black cloud with nobody quite knowing where or what it will eventually lead the club into.
However, neither the passive, compliant sections of the United support nor the proactive faction can argue four years on that they were right or wrong.
Those who said it would be business as usual might feel slightly more smug but those who harboured concerns are still waiting for the potential financial disaster around the corner.