How much Man Utd's debt has grown under the Glazers

Manchester United fans have protested against the Glazers from the start
Manchester United fans have protested against the Glazers from the start / Matthew Ashton - AMA/GettyImages

Among fans of other clubs in the Premier League, there has often been a lot of misunderstanding over why Manchester United supporters hate the Glazer family quite so much.

The confusion is fair in the sense Man Utd have consistently spent big money on transfers over the course of their ownership of the club, even though it has not led to anywhere near as much silverware as the financial outlay may suggest.

It is only when one begins to understand where the money spent on transfer fees comes from that it becomes clear why the Glazers are figures of hate among the United fanbase.

How did the Glazers buy Man Utd?

It is a phrase many are now familiar with. The Glazer family brought Manchester United in 2005 in what is called a leveraged buyout. It was something United fans protested against at the time and have continued to do so ever since.

The£790m deal came about by a significant amount of borrowed money being used to fund the acquisition of the club, with the debt of that borrowed money being secured against the club itself. The Glazers essentially gave themselves the debt, used the money to buy the club, and then the debt becomes Man Utd's to pay back.

That process itself is and was controversial, especially when you factor in the interest that the debt accrues and the dividends that have been paid to shareholders - primarily the Glazers themselves - along the way.

How has the Man Utd debt changed over the years?

Avram Glazer, Joel Glazer
Avram and Joel Glazer are hated figures in the Manchester United fanbase / Michael Regan/GettyImages

United had almost no debt at all between 1931 and 2005. Overnight with the Glazers' takeover, it rose to an initial £550m and then rocketed to more than £700m by 2010 while the owners restructured the finances in such a way that kept the club functional while they made money.

Various changes have occurred to reduce the debt over the years such as a £500m bond and the floatation of the club on the New York Stock Exchange in 2012, but even still, by the time the Glazers had been in charge for 17 years, the gross debt figure for Manchester United sat at £592m. At the end of their first year owning the club, it was £603m.

The club released the latest figures on March 30 2023 which showed that through a combination of gross debt, bank borrowings and outstanding transfer fees, Man Utd owes £969.6m. The principal debt, as reported by BBC Sport, stays at $650m but an exchange rate change means that it stands at £535.7m compared to £477.1m at the same point in the previous year.

So in very simple terms, the gross debt went from almost nothing pre-Glazers, to over £700m in 2010, to £535.7m in early 2023.

Read more on Man Utd's potential new owners


Interest and dividend payments

Manchester United v Hull City - Premier League
A Glazer Out protest during a match against Hull City in 2010 / Julian Finney/GettyImages

In order to service the debt and continue operating, Man Utd must make interest payments. For example, during the 2020/21 campaign, United paid £20.5m in interest. Interest rates have been averaging at £19m per season in recent years.

When the Glazers first took over, the first five years saw interest payments regularly climb above £40m per season due to the types of loans used to finance the takeover. They were often spending more on debt than they were on transfers.

As reported by The Independent in August 2022, United had paid roughly £743m in interest since the takeover by the Glazers, all on debt the club did not have until they brought it and placed it upon the organisation to make their takeover possible.

This is where the fans get really angry, though: dividends. While commonplace outside of football, no other Premier League club pays dividends to their shareholders. The majority of these dividends go directly into the pockets of the Glazer family.

They tend to be paid once in January and once in June. Since this started happening in 2016, the payments have averaged around £22m per season. Despite the immense debt that the club is under, the Glazers are able to pocket that level of money each season, something other clubs do not do.

Joel Glazer discussed this at a fans' forum meeting in 2021 saying: “We’re able to spend with the top clubs throughout Europe, whether it’s wages or transfer fees; we’ve been able to keep our ticket prices low, we’ve not increased them in over 10 years; we’re able to pay a dividend but it’s a modest proportion of our £500-600m of revenue; it’s less than three per cent of that.”

The Manchester United Supporters Trust hit back, saying: “Today the Glazers pay themselves the lion’s share of an £11m dividend at the end of one of the worst seasons in living memory. Reward for failure is poor practice in any business, and totally unacceptable given the current state of things at United.”

How can Man Utd still spend in the transfer market?

During the early years of the takeover, the debt and interest payments did affect United's ability to spend in line with other top clubs in Europe. It was the immense quality of Sir Alex Ferguson and his staff that meant United were able to stay at the top for so long.

In the years following his departure, the debt has been restructured and due to the remarkable revenues that United make, they can still spend huge transfer fees. In the most recent figures, United posted a profit of £6.3m for the quarter and said sponsorship revenue increased 43.2 per cent to £50.4m over the last quarter. They say this is thanks to the Tezos training kit agreement and a 'one-off sponsorship credit'.

Almost every company in the world would love to give Manchester United loads of money to have their name associated with the club, while millions of people around the world want to buy products, be it tickets, replica shirts or TV subscriptions from or to watch Manchester United. The brand is immensely powerful.

Were United not paying interest fees and dividends every year, the self-generated spending power just by being Manchester United would still have them as one of the richest clubs in the world. There is then the wider issue of how United have been able to spend; according to the CIES Football Observatory in 2022, £903m has left Old Trafford on players over the previous ten years, while still not winning the Premier League since 2013.

That is why there is also anger at the Glazers for how they have neglected the general running of the club, allowing an investment banker like Ed Woodard to lead the way on transfers when he had no footballing experience.


On this edition of The Promised Land, part of the 90min podcast network, Scott Saunders & Rob Blanchette discuss Gareth Southgate's comments on Marcus Rashford following his recent withdrawal from the England squad through injury. The guys also discuss Napoli's Kim Min-jae and if he is the man to replace Harry Maguire at Old Trafford.

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