Manchester United have become as well known for a string of stinking decisions than we have for anything else in recent years. A succession of bad managerial appointments, a chronically dilapidated and ageing stadium in dire need of upgrading, a perceived lack of direction and a money first mantra that has put turned the football side of the club from the priority to a distraction. Not to mention the club being riddled with an entire mountain range of debt, a scattergun recruitment policy and no discernible strategy to take the club forward.
This year marks 15-years since the Glazer family began their reign of terror at Old Trafford. They made a splash when they took full control of United in 2005, arriving amid a wave of anger as anger spilled out from the stands. Gold and green until we’re sold became the club’s unofficial motto among a section of fans, but although we continued to sweep up silverware, this was in spite of their ownership, not because of…
It was Sir Alex Ferguson’s one man crusade that kept United afloat, but even he became bogged down by their suffocating, asphyxiating way of doing things. When they tightened the purse strings, Ferguson was no longer able to run the club how he wanted and the dye was cast. As United’s fortunes dwindled, the already risible attitude towards the Yanks became a sea of fury as toxicity crept in and piece by piece, the club were being sold down the river. All of the above can be added to the mega-rich American family’s charge sheet, but – just as a stopped clock shows the correct time twice a day – even they occasionally get something right.
You will struggle to find a harsher, more outspoken critic and anti-Glazer advocate than me, indeed I could drone on for days about how much I want them gone but – brace yourselves – they deserve credit where it’s due (now, there’s a sentence I never thought myself capable of uttering – what has this lockdown done to me?!). You might think I’m need of a stiff drink, but the Glazers have barely put a foot wrong during United’s crisis enforced hiatus. A football club shows its quality by what it does off the field as much as on it, and United – as we have done so many times before – have showed the rest of the world the way.
Right at the start of the outbreak, amid the rising threat of a new, unknown virus from China, United’s Europa Cup tie with LASK was played in Austria, but behind closed doors (or, with no fans present). This immediately presented the Reds with a problem – our ever loyal, unstinting, magnificent legion of travelling fans would be left out of pocket. Not only denied entry to the match, but with travel and accommodation already booked. Up a certain creek without a paddle. It was reportedly the Glazer family whom made a collective decision to refund every travelling fan for the cost of the match ticket, the flight and the hotel directly out of their own pockets, as per Sky Sports. For owners lacking care and empathy towards a club’s most precious commodity, it was the right gesture.
Yet, that was only the start. As Spurs and Liverpool caused widespread derision over their decision to use the government’s furlough scheme – before beating a hasty, tail between their legs retreat, United showed how it should be done. The club – again with the Glazers and their partner in crime Ed Woodward calling the shots – kept all non playing staff on full pay during the pandemic despite the fact this decision would cost the club money – a criminal offence in the eyes of United’s notoriously penny pinching hierarchy. For the second time in quick succession, United’s powers that be had gone against their instincts and put their people first.
The first tentative signs that maybe, just maybe, lessons are being learned. As the old saying goes, these things often come in threes with United’s latest nice touch perhaps showing the best sentiment of all. I don’t know if this decision was one made by the Yanks, but nevertheless, for the club to waive outstanding fees for on loan trio Joel Pereira, Kieran O’Hara and Ethan Hamilton to help clubs lower down the pyramid – namely Hearts, Burton and Bolton – was a gesture to make you smile. Compassion. Again, not a word often spoken in the same sentence as the Glazers, Woodward or, indeed, anyone with any executive power at Old Trafford.
Don’t get me wrong, I still stand with both feet vehemently in the #GlazersOut camp – I believe its in the club’s best interests if they were to sell up and go – and a few good deeds shouldn’t mask over a decade of mismanagement. But, that being said, credit where it’s due, the owners have shown that they do have a heart and are capable of putting the club – not just its coffers – at the forefront.