Monday, 15 February 2010

Overseas Supporters - Asset or Burden?

One cold midweek evening in February 2007, United played Reading in an FA Cup 5th Round replay. I was then a first year Accounting student at the Jerusalem University, and had made my way from Mount Scopus to the city centre, where my usual football pub was situated. The Stardust pub is a small and cozy place just off Jaffa street. One of its owners back then was an Englishmen from Newcastle who argued with me on footballing matters whenever I would come. But the music there was good, the Brown Ale was great and the atmosphere was English; I was excited on that night, just as much as any, to go and watch United play.
I did not know that the way I supported United would forever change after that night.
I had been a supporter for nearly 11 years, since that FA Cup Semi Final triumph over Chelsea in March 1996, and had followed them through the frustration of losing out on the title in 98, the Treble, the total domination of 2000 and 2001, the pain of watching "fuckin'" Danny Murphy stun us at the 86th minute on January 22, 2002, after we had run them ragged all night long but failed to score, then the indescribable joy of beating them at Anfield 10 months later en route to bringing the trophy back. I was shocked when Becks left, wanted to break the TV when we were frustrated by violent Arsenal in September 03 at Old Trafford and wanted to bury myself when Rio got the ban… I watched us give Milan a fight and being robbed in the FA Cup Final of 2005, I was inconsolable when Roy Keane was gone from our club, and didn't know what to do with myself when Georgie Best passed away. I was shocked when we had lost to Benfica, but knew, when we'd played Fulham on February 4th 2006, that we were on our way back.
That night, as I was walking over to the pub wearing my United shirt, I heard someone shout to me, with a Mancunian accent- "Hey! Are you goin' to watch the game?" They were a group of kids, no older than 15, religious Jews, who'd come from Manchester to Israel for a visit and were looking for someplace to watch the game. Together we went to a pub, and all of the experience I had thought I had disintegrated, as I watched those Old Trafford regulars singing songs I was disappointed to have known no lyrics of. And I'm not talking of the rare songs, I'm talking about – "U-N-I-T-E-D"…
United had scored three goals in the opening six minutes of that game, and eventually won 3-2. Secretly, I had hoped the match would go into extra time so that this experience could last longer.
Not long after I had first met the blokes from Mancunia, they asked me the obvious question – having no connection to Manchester, what am I doing supporting this club? Unfortunately, I had no good answer. Frankly, I think anyone from outside of the greater Manchester area would not have a good answer. In fact, less the supporters who have the support of United run in their family, even those from Stockport, Bolton, Bury etc. would find that difficult to answer. But definitely, there is more justification for them supporting the club than people like me, or supporters from Russia or Indonesia, who may sing Scouser songs, but know nothing about what it's like to grow up in Manchester or Liverpool. I doubt if more than a few of them could say why, for instance, there is a ship on the club's badge.
So in that context, is it really that great that we can go to our English-style pub in downtown Tel-Aviv and sing how the ugly Scousers are only happy on Groundhog day (when most of us don't even know what that day is), and wave our One United membership cards and our formal branch status, or is it actually pathetic?
I think it's sad. Because the reason most of us do it is the lack of alternative as our local football is less than poor, so we have to look overseas to find the group of people and footballers that can make us feel like we belong. And it's also tragic, because we can never REALLY belong, we will always be considered as outsiders.
Do we make the club stronger or weaker? That is a valid question, at least in my eyes. Are we an asset or a burden or are we neither?
The earlier posts about the Glazer issue notwithstanding, and without considering me specifically, I would like to hear your thoughts.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

An Answer to Glazer Haters

Dilardo: Spreading it over a longer period of time does not take the debt away. It’s a ‘bury your head in the sand’ attitude, living on the never never. The interest payments are still there and at £45m, it’s £45m which should not be going out of the club.A positive reaction? What for delaying the more than likely inevitable? As for what Glazer may do – he has not done anything positive at our club; and for what the team may win – it’s not all about winning.
A: No, it doesn't make it go away, but it's there now. And until someone comes forward and says – I will buy the club and pay off the debt, any discussion about "making it go away" is purely academical. The fact that "a group of potential buers" is trying to stir things up is highly suspicious – if they're after the best interest of out club, why don't they come forward? Instead of giving themselves a pretentious nickname, why don't they say – we're here and we want to raise money to but the club off Glazer and pay the debt? It makes absolutely no sense, and it's sad that so many supporters are so blinded by their hatred to Glazer that they do not ask themselves these elementary questions.
As for "winning not being everything", it may not be the reason we support the club, and our support may not be conditioned upon it, but it is very much everything. And for you to claim you think it is not is either naive or hypocritical of you.
Dilardo: Yes, there clearly is. A new owner; The Red Knights in a takeover; fans raise the capital (with or without The Red Knights) and have a structure similar to that of FC Barcelona.
A: Yes, "The Red Knights"… What do we know of this group? Better yet, what does Keith Harris know of this group? Who are they and why do they feel the need to hide in the shadow of this nickname? If I were after the best interest of club, and wanted to raise capital to buy the club, I would shout it out on every street corner in Manchester. The fact that whoever this is still prefers to hide should raise some important questions. Obviously, you want to believe in it so much that you ignore these questions, but this is potentially a crucial mistake.
You've mentioned FC Barcelona a number of times in your comments – but FC Barcelona's management is a corrupted one, their chairmen splash out the club's money to bring in questionable players, and because they have the best interests of the club at heart, but because they want to keep their position. They're politicians, and corrupted ones at that. Every time the elections are near the club enters a swirl of restlessness that has a bad affect on the team, and the fact that the chairmen are replaced so frequently leads to instability and to the chairmen just working on staying in office. Is that what you want for us? And just so you know, the price for a behind-the-goal ticket at Camp Nou is 33£, which is higher than Old Trafford's 27£. It seems like the ticket prices at Old Trafford are actually not bad at all.Dilardo: Again, it’s not all about winning trophies. The great success we have had over the past 20 years will come to an end, or slow down at least, at some point. Team success is cyclical, nothing goes on for ever, for a real-life case see Liverpool FC.The squad is not being strengthened each season. Take this season for example; as good as Valencia has been and the goals Owen has scored, they, at present, aren’t quite the replacements for Ronaldo and Tevez. Take away the attitudes of Ronaldo and Tevez and ask any United supporters at the end of last season would they want to keep those two, or get rid and get Valencia and Owen, you would have a large majority in one camp – and I don’t need to tell you which one that would be. There was £80m from the Ronaldo sale that we keep being told is available for players, but it was clearly used to pay off the interest on the debt that the Glazers have placed around the neck of our club.A: I ask myself if we didn't win any trophies under Glazer, if you would still repeatedly claim that "winning isn't everything". I suspect you just feel it helps your case. We are not Liverpool. Liverpool failed to renew their squad in the start of the 1990's by bringing in younger, more talented players. Then the club just started to replace managers every season, experimented and eventually they did do something right in 2001 and 2002, but again they failed to keep strengthening their team. Liverpool is an example of a REAL case of a takeover that went bad, with the Americans constantly interfering with the running of the club, and failing to commence the much anticipated move from Anfield because of their debt payments. Glazer, in comparison, recently announced that there is a plan to further expand Old Trafford's capacity to 96,000. So they're buying players, expanding the stadium, staying out of the footballing side of business and under them the club has seen a bright period of success. So you're basically moaning about some "doomsday" scenario that is most likely to not happen at all.
Dilardo: A 42% rise in 5 years is huge. You question whether it is a fact that the rises are due to the debt? You come across as an intelligent person, you surely don’t need me to tell you that it is. Anything that can line the Glazers pockets more so than when their mugs first surfaced will be put into action.A: That's not what I said. What I said was you cannot distinguish which income is used for which expense. Because of that you simply cannot claim that the rise in ticket prices is used to cover the debt. Some of this rise, as I wrote before, is due to inflation and to the fact that ALL Premiership clubs raised their ticket prices substantially following the new TV deal of 2007.
Dilardo: If there was no loan, then there would be no question about where the money is going. Clearly prices have gone up to service the debt.
A: That is only "clear" to the anti-Glazer gang.
Dilardo: Hypocritical? Ungrateful? Please expand. If we were to disappear, how would Glazer cover his debt?A: As I noted earlier, look at Liverpool. They postponed the building of the new stadium to service their debt, and their ticket prices are higher than Old Trafford's. Ferguson was given an open hand in the transfer market, Old Trafford is by far the largest club stadium in Britain and still being expanded to be in-line with the continent's greatest grounds. Has the club with the supporters as shareholders did that?Dilardo: So the players that we released didn’t bring money into the club???
A: Again, you did not understand what I was saying. I'm saying that unlike at other clubs, no players were released for the sole purpose of servicing the debt; if Ronaldo hadn't wanted to go United would've kept him, and Tevez was offered the money he wanted. So there was no financial issue in their departure.Dilardo: Regarding your table - who cares what other clubs charge. Two of the clubs mentioned are London clubs where everything is more expensive; from a pint to the purchase of a house. Liverpool, a northern club, have their most expensive ticket at £10 cheaper than ours. What you need to recognise if the increase in ticket prices over the past 5 years rather than how we compare to other clubs.A: If you don't compare, how can you say the prices are high??? Because of how they were in 1996??? If you check how much milk cost in 1996 you'll see that its price has risen as well – there is something called inflation… 1$ of 2000 is not equal to 1$ of 2010. Because of that, the only way you can really have a sense of the justification to a ticket pricing policy is comparison with other businesses in the same industry and of the same caliber. It's a basic notion of business comparison, and it's valid when comparing football teams as well. You're right about London- I checked Spurs' ticket prices and they are substantially higher than those at Old Trafford as well, all the more reason not to complain on ticket prices. You chose to highlight the highest ticket prices at Old Trafford and Anfield – but who cares hoe much the suits pay for their tickets, we care about the real supporters, and they are the ones complaining. In that department, a seat in the Stretford End is 10£ cheaper than a seat at The Kop. So what are we complaining about?
Dilardo: Again, it goes back to winning trophies. So, taking that into account, after the Treble season, it would have been fair to increase the ticket prices by 90%?
A: No, but there was an increase in ticket prices, and yes – it was justified. And again, the 42% represents inflation and the nationwide price increase following the new TV deal, as well as the improving quality of the offered product – the football team. And keep in mind that prices would stop being raised the day it causes United to struggle to fill Old Trafford to capacity. But 72,000 supporters every time out (discounting away supporters) prove that the prices are still at a reasonable level.Dilardo: Yes, it’s not just about winning trophies, which some supporters seem to be happy with, it’s about doing it in the right way. At United there is a tradition of how the game should be played and how things are done. Albeit failing with the players he brought in, even Abramovich got the attractive football element right.A: ARE YOU SERIOUS???? I'm shocked. How do you think Fergie would react if the management – be it Glazer or "The Red Knights" – bought a player without even consulting him, and make remarks in the press as to how they think the team should play? Even the most anti-Glazer supporters hand it to him that he hasn't meddled with the footballing side of things. The fact that you think even that isn't right doesn't put a positive light on you.
Dilardo: Really – are you unaware of the millions Benitez has frittered away on ordinary players?
A: Yes, but only last summer did the Americans tell him – "Have as much money as you like and bring in whoever you want". Don't you read the papers/watch TV/surf the web?
Dilardo: And take a look at the healthy state that Portsmouth, Leeds and Newcastle are in due to their takeovers by people who had no idea …A: Exactly! Glazer does have an idea – he already owns a sports team, unlike the owners of the teams mentioned above, Abramovich, or anyother new owner in the Premiership.Dilardo: Very lucky? Doesn’t want to change anything? He just wants to increase prices, make staff redundant and pile us into debt. But apart from the, hey, everything’s rosy, what’s the fuss about eh?A: Please expand on "making staff redundant". Other than that, the other claims have been dealt with and I do not want to get repetitive.
Dilardo: You have evidence to prove he doesn’t want to? Because he’s doing a great job of destroying the club as things stand today. Supporters don’t need to be up on ‘business lingo’ that tries to make this whole episode sound a natural and healthy state for the club to be in. People can see what’s happening and are reacting as a result.A: News just in! Everyone are now presumed guilty until proven innocent! Dilardo, I am your father. Think that I am not? Why don't you prove otherwise? That is how stupid your case sounds here. Yeah, wow, what a mess we're in – our debt doesn't need be paid until 2017, we're chasing a historic fourth title in-a-row, considered one of the best teams in Europe, we have a young squad playing the best football in England at the moment, what a shit state of affairs it is to be in.
Dilardo: The supporters can run the club, as happens at Barcelona. The funds can be raised, it’s a case of how it will be administered. You say at the end of your piece "Should the club collapse financially, there will be many takers who would love to buy the club and keep it at the top."Those ‘takers’ you mention, some will have way better intentions than Glazer, or be United supporters themselves – such at The Red Knights. It’s better this happens now rather than when the club ‘collapses financially’.A: I've dealt with the Barca claim. You know what – I totally agree with you. Should a buyer present themselves, who are accomplished sports team owners that have the funds not only to buy the club but to continue bringing money into it, and have the managing ability or can offer people with managing ability who will run it and WILL STAY OUT OF THE FOOTBALLING SIDE OF BUSINESS, I would be all for Glazer to be bought out. But that isn't the case, is it?
Dilardo: The supporters can run the club, as happens at Barcelona. There would be a board and people elected for periods of time.Glazer could put us on the market now, but why would he when there are millions more to be made from us?
A: Again, Barca…
Dilardo: The debt would go as part of the takeover. Part of the payment would be to pay off the debt and the other part would be Glazer’s profit.
A: As I said, I would be all for that, but where are those buyers? I guess nobody knows who they really are, what with the shining armor and all… Dilardo: He makes way more from us than from his American football team, so it doesn’t take a genius to work out why we are his most prized possession. Normal people look after prized possessions – maybe someone forgot to mention that to Glazer.A: You're right. No money has been invested at the club, the club doesn't try and improve to keep at par with the greatest European teams. It seems you ignored half of what I wrote because I dealt with these issues and you didn't even make a reference to them, you just keep repeating the mantra of "Glazer – bad, Red Knights – good".
Dilardo: This has to be a mistype? Taking 75p from every pound does not sound like 'he has every intention to keep investing at the club'A: I see you have placed a hidden camera in his wallet… Who came up with this number and what detail did he provide with it? I'll tell you – an interested party to the takeover group made that statement, and he provided no detail whatsoever.
Dilardo: You've 'followed the Premiership since 1996' - a lack of knowledge? I think you will find there are many United supporters who are against Glazer that have plenty of knowledge and have followed United for decades. Spite towards Glazer - are you surprised?A: I did not mean that kind of knowledge. And you will find just as many United supporters who have been supporters for decades and don't share this blind hatred to all things Glazer.
Dilardo: We have a Ronaldo to sell every year? Shot self and argument in the foot.A: No, it was just an example. For a club with an income of over 1 Billion GBP annually, 45 million cannot be separated into sources from which the expense was paid.
Dilardo: It can if he stays as owner.A: So now we're down to "yes it will, no it won't"…
Dilardo: This has got to be a joke. Taking 75p in every pound, making payments to himself - not coming to matches (Abramovich does at Chelsea) wonder why Uncle Malcolm doesn't? Small price? Our future in the balance for a few pieces of silver (league titles, cups). The club may be better off if we never won anything again - at least those who put winning things above everything else would go and support another team and leave the real supporters to enjoy their club.A: So if he came to matches it would make such a difference? You're exaggerating, and I wonder if you will think the same if some obscure group presenting themselves as United supporters bought out the club and it would then turn out they do not have the funds to keep the club going. We'll go down to the Unibond League and win nothing ever again – but hey, at least the supporters will be running the club.
Dilardo: It really is not all about trophies. Club staff are being made redundant, free refreshments stopped for club workers, stewards getting sacked for returning banners to supporters, fans having season tickets confiscated for flags brought into the stadium or singing songs. I would suggest that doesn’t happen down at Stamford Bridge.
A: Here you are just being repetitive and making a nonsense case, these are no reasons to claim that Glazer is bad for the club. And I can assure you that should Chelski fans sing songs about Abramovich like our supporters sing about Glazer, the reaction will be by far fiercer than the one experienced at Old Trafford, just look what happened to Mourinho when he spoke against him.
Dilardo: The situation couldn't really be much worse. Alternatives - Glazer off and new owners with an interest in the club aligned with that of the supporters; the Red Knights takeover; or fans buy the club and run it as at Barcelona.
A: Dealt with this already… WHO THE HELL ARE THESE "RED KNIGHTS"???There really can be no other outcome if United are to survive, let alone prosper in the long term – Glazer has to go. NOW.
A: I beg to differ.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Why the Glazers Should Not Be Forced Out

Early last month, Manchester United (the corporation) announced that they had refinanced the infamous Glazer Takeover debt, spreading it over a longer period of time (until February 2017) thus decreasing the annual interest payments from around 60M GBP to around 45M. One would've expected that such an announcement would spring a positive reaction from the anti-Glazer supporter groups (mainly MUST and IMUSA), but the turn of events since the announcement seems to prove that no matter what Glazer may do or what the team may win under his ownership, some supporters will always look for the negatives. The question that needs be asked, however, is not necessarily whether the refinancing in and of itself is a positive or a negative sign, but whether a better alternative for Glazer exist. Despite that, I wish to first address the first question.

A Wider Perspective on Refinancing
It needs not be said that football corporations, especially those of Manchester United's caliber, are strongly linked to the business and economic environment. The refinancing must then be analyzed within the economic context. And the economic environment in the UK at the start of 2010 is a harsh one. Companies in all fields of business are struggling to pay their debts and refinancing is hardly an option for most of them. Corporations that only yesteryear displayed profits and promising balance sheets and cash flow reports, have a "Going Concern" note staining their financial reports, meaning that their accountants fear that their financial situation is dire, to the extent that it is very doubtful whether they can survive the next 12 months. In that atmosphere, where the credit market has yet to return to its pre-crisis conditions, for a corporation to refinance a loan of 509M GBP is quite the feat. It shows the lenders' great confidence in the corporation, in its stability, the quality of its management, the product that it offers (the football team) and in its overall condition.

The Way it is at Manchester United
And there's a reason why Manchester United's lenders believe in the corporation. Since Glazer took over in 2005, Manchester United won three consecutive League Titles, one European Cup as well as reaching the Final and the Semi Final of the competition and won two English League Cups. The squad is being strengthened each season, and the management does not involve itself in the football side of business, which leads to greater stability and increases the belief in the corporation's ability to remain a leading business. While businesses may display misleading data in their financial reports – such as profits produced by re-evaluations of a company's asset(s) that weren't realized – Manchester United's income is real and their assets, by and large, are not exposed to significant risks, other than, perhaps, injuries to key players (even these, due to the method in which players are incorporated into the balance sheet, do not have a direct significant influence on the profit). Indeed, debtors who read Manchester United's financial reports must surely be smiling, confident that the return of their loan is secured. But what about the supporters? How should they feel, knowing that these loans, which were effectively meant to cover the takeover expenses of the club owner, are coming from their pockets, as the situation is portrayed by the MUST-IMUSA-FCUM coalition? The real question is, to what extent is that the situation.

The Rise in Ticket Prices, the Transfer Market and the Loan
According to Wikipedia, since Glazer took over in 2005, Old Trafford has seen a rise of 42% in ticket prices. This number is the cause to much of the anti-Glazer criticism, especially when taking into consideration the fact(?) that this rise is largely due to the load on the club's balance sheet, caused by the aforementioned loan. The truth is that we supporters can't ever distinguish what part of the corporation's income is used to cover the loan and what part was used, for example, to bring the likes of Carrick and Berbatov to Old Trafford. No-one can really know, and the notion that the supporters' money is used to cover Glazer's debt is not only hypocritical, it is ungrateful. Because while other Premiership clubs that went through some rough financial periods, such as Arsenal and Liverpool, cut back on the transfers, United not only brought in players worth over 100M GBP since the Glazers took over, they did not release a single player to improve the corporation's financial situation. So in reality, just as much as one could claim that the supporters' money was used to cover Glazer's debt, one could also claim that the rise in ticket prices was made to ensure that the club can maintain its status. Furthermore, any rise in the price of any product must be analyzed within a context, such as the inflation rate in the UK over the years of the increase and a comparison to similar businesses. The rise in RPI in the UK since Glazer finally gained control of the club in May 2005 amounted to 11%. Although the RPI isn't a clear cut index of prices, it represents the general economic environment and count for at least part of the increase. As for the comparison, even when comparing the prices at Old Trafford to clubs of the same caliber, one should keep in mind that Old Trafford is a highly modernized stadium, which provides for a special hospitality experience that cannot be matched by Stamford Bridge, and definitely not by Anfield. The only club stadium in England that can really be compared to Old Trafford is the Emirates. Still, I provide you with the data in the following table:

I must admit, when I came up with this data I was extremely surprised. I was prepared to discover that Chelsea are the only team with prices that are higher than those at Old Trafford. And, in all fairness, Anfield only has three pricing categories which make for this average. When taking into account that these numbers are after a 42% increase at Old Trafford, in a period which saw United win three League titles in-a-row, one could hardly complain about the prices. But let us assume, for argument's sake, that all that has been written above is irrelevant, that the refinancing did not improve the situation, that Glazer did not invest in the club and that the increase in ticket prices was unfair, and was used to cover the debt. There are still a number of issues to address, which make Glazer, at the very least, the lesser of any number of evils.

"Change Your Heart, Look Around You…"
For the first three years after Roman Abramovich took over Chelsea, he hardly made any errors. He splashed out money, brought in a strong manager and allowed that manager the professional freedom necessary for success. In the whole of the 2004/5 season Chelsea conceded only 9 goals, an amazing statistic representing less than 1 goal for every four games. The second title was effectively won by February, a late and short-lived comeback by United notwithstanding. But then Abramovich started to make some fateful mistakes. The first was the selling of Huth and the landing of Shevchenko and Ballack, all of which were against Mourinho's wishes. Then, Abramovich started to meddle with the football side of the business, because it was not enough that Chelsea won titles, they needed to do that by playing beautiful football. The result of Abramovich's meddling with the professional side was that Chelsea failed to defend their title and haven't won the Premiership since. In Liverpool, Benitez had to wait until last summer – the end of his sixth season there – before he was handed given an open hand in the transfer market by Gillette and Hicks, and in Man City Hughes was replaced by Mancini for no apparent and have only slumped in form since. All this without discussing clubs that have been taken over and that are in more dire conditions, such as Pompey, Leeds, Newcastle, and the Israeli basketball team of Hapoel Tel-Aviv, who slipped from the top tier to the third tier and saw their court demolished before their supporters set up a new club, Hapoel Ussishkin, who have been promoted in each of their three years of existence, and look certain to climb into the second tier of Israeli basketball this year. And they are mentioned here for a reason. THIS is what lies out there. This is the new basis of ownership in football. And Manchester United are very lucky in the sense that their owner doesn't want to change anything at the club, doesn't want to meddle with the footballing side, just wants to run the club and – yes, make money off of it. Some supporters claim that Glazer wants to "milk' the club and leave when it has been destroyed, but that is a paranoid fear which shows either lack of understanding in business or pure hatred, or both. Obviously, it would be in Glazer's best interest for the club to succeed and continue to profit long after the takeover debt had been paid off.
But anyway, putting United back on the stock market is not necessarily a good thing. The supporters coalition want the supporters to run the club, but do they have the funds to buy out the hundreds of millions of shares? And who will run the club under the coalition's reign? It seems to me that if Glazer was really after "milking" United, he would put it on the market now, with the debt. Obviously United's market value has increased since 2005, and he could make a considerable profit from selling it now. Another point that needs be addressed is the situation that existed in United in the final few years of its trade in the LSE; some of us may have hurried to forget the whole McManus/Magnier affair which even dragged Fergie into the fray, and anyway even back in those years the supporters had little influence on the going bouts at the club, and the best evidence is the existence of IMUSA – what reason would an independent organization have for existence if the club management were open to hear the supporters' criticism? The corporation didn't spend any more money in the transfer market than Glazer does (quite the contrary), ticket prices were an issue back then as well, and the sheer fact that United were listed in the stock exchange constantly put them under unwanted pressure as to whether someone was going to take over, and everyone will remember how for most of the Treble season the football took a secondary position to the BSkyB takeover bid, and how between 2002 and 2004 United's main shareholders bickered between them, fighting for control over the club.
Those who want United back on the market should also know that the listing in itself costs hundreds of thousands of GBP annually, in payment to the auditing accountant, implementation of inter-company auditing and control demands, the hiring of external Directors, etc.

Perhaps the most important issue of those that I raised is the fact that if Glazer goes now, the debt will still be there. The demise in recent years of Glazer's American Football team turned Manchester United into his most prized possession. If Glazer was in it just to "milk" United, he would've sold them now. I'm not saying he's suddenly a supporter and will stick with the club through thick and thin, but he has shown that he has every intention to keep investing at the club to keep it at par with the very highest level in Europe. We hadn't had that kind of investing ownership in Martin Edwards when United were listed in the market.
The data presented above shows that most of the supporters' criticism is due to either lack of knowledge or spite towards Glazer. The supporters' money cannot be separated from other income that the club has in paying the debt. In 2009, for example, Ronaldo's fee alone could've covered for the debt.
Everyone's scared that United will turn into Leeds #2. But Manchester United isn't Leeds United. Should the club collapse financially, there will be many takers who would love to buy the club and keep it at the top. The days of 1901 and the 1930's, when United's future hung on a balance, are gone. Even in this extreme scenario, Glazer's debt will not cause the demise of Manchester United.
The bottom line is that Glazer is here, he is probably the best owner Manchester United could have at the moment, and in my opinion the debt is a small price to pay. Just ask a debt-free Chelsea supporter who saw his team lose out on the Title for the past three years.
I'm not asking anyone to love Glazer, I'm just asking everyone to try and look around you, think about the situation that we're in, think what alternative there is, and whether things are really that bad.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

The Big Time Weekend Review - 26-28.09.09

Sorry for the delay... I'll try to post earlier in the future...

It was another fertile weekend in The Big Time. Thirty seven goals were scored in ten matches, almost four goals per game in average. It was the story of defensive errors galore and strikers gone wild, with Robbie Keane hitting four and Torres happy with three. But it wasn’t just the bottom-half teams that let in the goals; Ancelotti’s Chelsea lost their 100% record in an awful display of defending at Wigan, while Villa’s defense helped Blackburn to the other surprising result of the weekend. With the bottom teams beating each other - Birmingham beat Hull last week but lost to Bolton this time - and six teams at the top separated by just three points (United, Chelsea, City, Liverpool, Spurs and Arsenal), the start of this season seems very promising. So now, let’s take a look at the scores around the country....
Wigan Athletic v Chelsea - They had to wait 34 games, but finally Wigan beat one of the “Big-4”. And they did it in style, too, although the score may have been different if it weren’t for Cech’s dismissal. But even before then, Chelsea’s defense had a terrible day, reacting painfully slowly to Wigan’s moves, leaving players completely unmarked in the box and allowing the Latics miles of space in attack. It seemed as though Chelsea were certain the game was theirs for the taking, and when Drogba equalized a minute and a half after the restart, it seemed it was going to be business as usual - three times already Chelsea went down 0-1 and still won the game. And they had a good chance to do that before Wigan stormed forward, exposing Chelsea’s over-confident back four once again, and getting a penalty, a decision which was nothing but spot on. After that there wasn’t much to report about, Scharner sealing the win for Wigan, assuring that there would be no last gasp lifeline for Chelsea as there was at the Britannia two weeks ago. Martinez is keeping his promise that Wigan will play exciting football against everyone, and maybe this amazing result will give them the push they needed. It finished
Wigan 3 (1) Chelsea 1 (0) - DW Stadium.
Liverpool v Hull City -
Torres, Torres, and again - Torres. How much talk did he hear about Xabi Alonso’s role in Liverpool’s great season last year, and he’s coming back even better this year. Sure, Hull’s defense, at least the way they played at Anfield, is pretty much as poor as it gets in the Premiership, but you need to take the mistakes when they come and Torres did just that. Hull, who already conceded 4 from Sunderland and 5 from Spurs, need to do something. Many pundits said at the end of last season that had the league gone on for ten more games, Hull would’ve been relegated. Unless major changes will happen, Hull will go down this year, and not in a respectful manner. Their defenders will surely suffer from reoccurring nightmares of Benayoun and Koyt waiting roaming freely in the box, waiting for the ball to fall for them. And one final word needs to be said on Gerrard’s amazing goal, a true piece of brilliance.
Liverpool 6 (2) Hull City 1 (1) - Anfield.
Tottenham Hotspur v Burnley -
Burnley continue their tradition of winning at home and losing away. But they won’t win all 57 points at Turf Moor, which means they’ll have to start picking up points away at some point, although they may feel that their aim is to collect the points from Molineux and Fratton Park rather than White Hart Lane and Stamford Bridge. They’ve played some of the hardest fixtures they’ll face this season, and they did so with honours. This time, though, they exhibited terrible defending, with Keane being left alone in the box time after time. It was a great day for the striker, and like Torres he was helped by the visiting defense. It’s a good response from Spurs after two painful defeats at the hands of the Champions and Chelsea. Final score Tottenham Hotspur 5 (2) Burnley 0 - White Hart Lane.
Stoke City v Manchester United - Tricky game for the Champions, but they came out unscathed. It was an 84th minute strike from Tevez which won this fixture for them last time around; Tevez isn’t around anymore, but the assist was delivered by Berbatov, who was desperate for a goal after the countless misses in that Manchester derby, and got it. Nani and Valencia still don’t appear to be making the step-up they’re required and expected to be making, with another disappointing performance. Unlike them, Fletcher continued his great start to the season with another top-notch performance. Stoke displayed great defending, which is a refreshing sight in this year’s Premiership, forcing United to take shots from outside the box, but in the end United wore them out, Giggs came on and saved the day again. After a hat-trick of assists in the derby, he delivered two more, and made the difference for the Champions. But if Stoke’s defense keeps playing the way they did, the Potters will once again avoid the relegation dogfight. In the end it was Stoke City 0 Manchester United 2 (0) - Britannia Stadium.
Birmingham City v Bolton Wanderers - Terrible marking by the Birmingham defense in both goals and in general. Bolton should’ve had the game wrapped up long before the 86th minute, and nearly paid the price for their misses. But they will find that not all teams will allow them to score vital late goals away from home as Pompey and Birmingham did, and they will have to start taking more of their chances. In the meantime, though, they already won 6 crucial points against their direct rivals, so they’re on the right track. On the losing side, McLeish blamed his defense - and rightly so, but he made an almost unforgivable mistake in playing a lone striker at home against a direct dogfight rival. And so it was Birmingham City 1 (0) Bolton Wanderers 2 (1) - St. Andrew’s.
Blackburn Rovers v Aston Villa - Can anyone stop Agbonlahor? The on-form Villa striker really helps in taking the mind off Barry; even a complete mishit like his 3rd minute strike here gets in there. But when your defenders make mistakes like Villa’s made on the equalizer, you could score a century and it still won’t matter. Terrible defensive play by the visitors lead to this surprising scoreline. And the penalty? If it was given for dangerous play, it’s an excellent decision, but if it was for a hand ball, it’s an outrageous one. Blackburn, after a tough start, are looking to be headed in the right direction. Blackburn Rovers 2 (1) Aston Villa 1 (1) - Ewood Park.
Fulham v Arsenal - And this week’s London derby(...) was a late kick-off which saw Fulham nearly take the lead a few times before van Persie finally scored Arsenal’s winner midway through the second half. The Gunners, who defeated Wigan last week, looked this time inferior not only to the other top three, but to Spurs and City as well. They allowed far too much space for Fulham, and it was only a moment of brilliance which saw them through. So which is the real Arsenal? The team that walked all over Wigan and Everton, or the one that barely survived the trip to the Cottage on the Thames? Either way, to remain a part of the “Big-4” they will have to show some consistency. Great performance by Arsenal’s sub keeper, Vito Mannone. Fulham 0 Arsenal 1 (0) - Craven Cottage.
Portsmouth v Everton - The Big Time feels that Pompey are going down. Another home defeat (the third) in what was once a great fortress. And again it was gravely painful, as they were extremely unlucky not to get a draw, even considering the perfect day Howard had experienced. The question is whether this performance will show Pompey that they CAN do it and start making their way to what would already be a memorable escape, or whether this will brake them, and we will have another Derby of 2008. The players definitely looked shattered in the end. Everton, on the other hand, continue to recuperate from that nightmare of a start, but the story is definitely Pompey, with 0 from 21. Portsmouth 0 Everton 1 (1) - Fratton Park.
Sunderland v Wolves - There seems to be a rule of thumb for Sunderland this season; play well (as in Burnley) and lose, play poorly (as against Blackburn) and win. It was the same story again at Weirside on Sunday, as the Black Cats were outplayed by the golden Wolves, who also deserved a penalty, but failed to take a bite at the home side. If Wolves can feel deprived by the ref, Sunderland can consider themselves lucky with the first penalty, although from where he stood you can see how he thought it was a foul. Wolves went down 0-2 despite being the better team, but did very well to come back to 2-2 in a place like the Stadium of Light, albeit they received great assistance from the Sunderland defense. Sunderland themselves did great to take the lead again, and at 4-2 the competition was over. Mick McCarthy and his lads can take great comfort in an incredible comeback and in their performance, but they can be just as disappointed with scoring two goals away and coming back empty-handed. Then again, they won’t play at Sunderland every week. A great match, a true Premiership classic, which ended Sunderland 5 (1) Wolverhampton Wanderers 2 (0) - The Stadium of Light.
Manchester City v West Ham United - The Big Time regrets to inform that due to the fact that the match was held at the end of a Jewish holiday which he spent with his significant other at his in-law’s, and only got home late at night, he did not watch this game or its highlights. It was Tevez’s day as he started his scoring account at City, although he had much preferred it had been last week against his former club, than this week against his first club in England. West Ham will have to look for points elsewhere, i.e. where there are no oil-lords spilling hundreds of millions of Pounds... Manchester City 3 (2) West Ham United 1 (1) - The City of Manchester Stadium.
Player of the Week: Fernando Torres (Liverpool) - You’d have thought scoring a hat-trick would make him this weekend’s top scorer, but Robbie Keane’s quadruple of goals aside, Torres’ impact in Liverpool’s defeat of Hull was immense, especially when the game was tied at 1-1. If he avoids injuries this year, Liverpool will pose a threat on the title once again.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

He Ow(e)ns This City: Manchester United 4 (1) Manchester City 3 (1)

The Manchester derby on Sunday raised a few questions, about both teams. For the losing side, while City’s supporters might focus on the time added on at the end of the game, Mark Hughes (who also focused on the added time when interviewed after the match) will definitely want to address the fact that for the whole of the second half, his team looked utterly shocked and overwhelmed by United’s wave after wave of attacks, and were completely under the ball. Defensive errors may have allowed City to score twice in that half, but they looked by far inferior to United, more so than in any other derby in the memorable past. He will also want to ask questions about players doubting his decisions (or lack there of) and arguing with him in front of the cameras, in the height of what may very well be the team’s most important match of the season. Finally, he must be outraged with the fact that time and time again during the second half, City failed to cope with United’s crosses, and that in injury time City panicked and instead of keeping the ball and running down the clock, they just kicked it back to the United players. Specifically, he will be furious with the way Michael Owen was left open and onside in the winning goal.
In the home team’s dressing room, shoes were thrown, no doubt, on the alleged replacement of VDS. Foul or now foul by Tevez in the first goal, that ball should by then have been long under Foster’s control. The second may have been an unstoppable strike, but simply falling in front of Bellamy in the third goal, hoping for the best, is more Barthez-like than VDS. If Foster is truly aiming to become United’s, and indeed England’s, no.1, he has to improve dramatically. It would help, of course, to have a good defence in front of you, and in that aspect Rio’s outrageous error in the build-up to City’s third equalizer was the stuff of amateurs. And it’s not a one-off; against Arsenal it also seemed United’s defenders stopped playing once the clock hit 90, and nearly paid the price, Arsenal's goal being rightfully disallowed for offside. I thought when Bellamy equalized they were handed the bill, but they were saved again. Still, the club which most famously took advantage of time added on at the end of the game, can’t allow this mistake to happen again, and trust Ferguson to make sure they don’t.
And how about those misses? Sure, you can say Given is a top-class goalkeeper (which he is) who had an amazing day (which he did), but United should’ve taken more of their chances - nothwithstanding the fact they scored four - when the game’s tied you have to take every chance you get. And, considering Owen’s winner, you have to wonder whether Berbatov would’ve scored that, and in light of that who should be United’s second striker - and this from someone who told anyone who’d listen what a crazy signing Owen was.
And so, a crazy month for the Manchester teams ends with lots to think about. City will have to improve their performances against the “Big-4” (which they are NOT yet a part of), while United need to shake up their defence, because Chelsea won’t be dropping many points this year. And that, I feel, is the bottom line- both teams (assuming City does have title credentials) will be chasing Chelsea.

Manchester United 4 (1) Rooney 2" Fletcher 49", 80" Owen 90"(+6)
Manchester City 1 (1) Barry 16" Bellamy 52", 90"
Old Trafford, Manchester

1) Ryan Giggs, in one of his greatest ever games, with 3 assists and many more “would-be” goals, and this only two months and a bit before his 36th birthday.
2) Darren Fletcher, enjoying a great start to his season, bringing United back to life with two second half headers.
3) Craig Bellamy, rediscovering his joy of the game at City, scored two more goals. His goals may have been allowed by defensive errors, but they were beautiful nonetheless. And he may be forgiven that foolish slap to the face of an even more foolish United supporter who ran on to the pitch after the winning goal.
4) Emmanuel Adebayor, you have to wonder what the score would’ve been had he played, not Tevez.

They Blew It:
1) Carlos Tevez- other than an assist to the first goal, a very disappointing performance from the man who had everything to prove.
2) Ben Foster - needs to improve, ASAP.