The Mancunian’s blood pressure has dropped again. Manchester United beat Liverpool in a clever way on Monday evening. An important victory, which gives Erik ten Hag some breathing space.
But beneath the surface is a struggle that goes much deeper than a duel lost or won: supporters of the club want the Glazer family to disappear as owners of Manchester United.
In a tweet from supporters group ‘The 1958’ we see the iconic Game of Thronescharacter Jon Snow standing alone on the battlefield as he sees a troop of daring opponents on horseback charging in.
In this case, the horde of savage must represent the Glazer clan, an American billionaire family that got their hands on Manchester United more than seventeen years ago. On Monday, there was a large-scale demonstration against them before the top match against Liverpool: thousands took part in a protest march.
Named after the year in which a United squad plane crashed in Munich, ‘The 1958’ can drink the blood of the Glazers. And it will indeed take an epic fight to ever get them out of the club again. And last but not least, the resistance against the Glazers has been around since 2005.
In that year, Malcolm Glazer, an American billionaire with Lithuanian roots, took over United from then-bosses John Magnier and JP McManus.
He did that for the most part with money that didn’t belong to him. Glazer took over the club with a ‘leveraged buyout’, a construction whereby a company is acquired with borrowed money, with the acquired company serving as collateral.
The result: United was saddled with an insane amount of debt, which has to be repaid with heavy interest. In addition, the club must pay dividends to the shareholders when paying it off. So to the Glazers.
After the takeover, the ‘Red Devils’ were hundreds of millions in the red. Without investing, the Glazers made money from United.
This method was not appreciated by supporters of the club. In the early years after the takeover, skepticism persisted, despite the fact that many awards were still won under then coach Sir Alex Ferguson.
The most famous campaign from that period was conducted under the motto: United green and gold until the club is sold. Supporters wore green and gold scarves, a reference to the colors of Newton Heath, as the club was called until 1902.
Those actions ultimately had no effect. With the years, in which the protests flared up every now and then, the realization grew how hopeless the situation was.
Because how are you ever going to get them out, those Glazers? After the death of father Malcolm in 2014, his sons Avram and Joel Glazer took over.
Many supporters’ protest banners read and said ’50+1′, referring to the German model in which the club’s supporters have a majority share. But fans can only dream of such a construction.
Supporters lost heart. Many canceled their season tickets and skipped yet another protest against the Glazers.
A group of disillusioned supporters even founded their own club, completely adapted to their football ideals. FC United of Manchester became the popular, locally rooted and non-commercial version of Manchester United.
The other United continued to grow in the past decade. More and more disgruntled fans joined the initiators, taking a season ticket to support their new team in a romantic stadium.
But of course there were still plenty of fanatical Manchester United supporters, who have united in groups such as the Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) and The 1958.
The complete failure of the Super League, which the Glazers would have loved to earn big money with United, gave the supporters wind in their sails.
Images of raging fans standing on the Old Trafford field, when the match against Liverpool should have been kicked off at that moment, went around the world.
But the Super League debacle was no reason for the Glazers to give way. Joel Glazer sent an open letter of apology and then waited for the storm to pass.
But it didn’t stay quiet for very long, certainly not after the dramatic 2021/2022 season and the even worse start of the current one under Ten Hag.
After the defeats against Brighton and Brentford, the backlash against the Glazers flared up again. A protest march was held before the match against Liverpool and during the match it was ‘We want Glazers out’ constantly heard.
‘The 1958’ tries to bring that beaten hard core of United back together. “Some things are worth fighting for”they often write on Twitter.
Before the match against Liverpool, ‘The 1958’ was addressed directly to the fans who have joined FC United of Manchester. “Stand with us once more against the Glazer ownership. Rejoin the Fight!”
The hopes of the protesting supporters are now mainly pinned on Sir Jim Ratcliffe, a billionaire from Greater Manchester, who also invests in sports clubs with his company INEOS. He is reportedly looking to make an offer to buy out the Glazers.
It remains to be seen whether that actually happens and whether the Glazers really want to give way. Until then, the long struggle of the supporters will flare up every so often.