Manchester United fans are desperate to see the back of the Glazer family, who have owned the club since the late Malcolm Glazer instigated a controversial leveraged buyout in 2005.
Glazer, who made his fortune in property and then diverse business interests, had previously taken over the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1995. It was a franchise that had a history of losing but went on to claim its first ever Super Bowl in 2003.
The Glazer family’s ownership of Manchester United has had the opposite effect.
It has only become apparent over the last few years, but there was an element of Sir Alex Ferguson’s genius and far-reaching control at Old Trafford that papered over the cracks – in the first eight years of Glazer ownership, United won five Premier League titles, three League Cups, the Champions League, plus reaching a further two Champions League finals.
In the nine years since Ferguson retired, United have won three major trophies in total – none since 2017, and have burned through numerous permanent managers and £1bn in the transfer market for little to no gain on the pitch.
Opposing fans question why United fans, who have been protesting against the Glazers since the very start, have become so irate about the owner situation when the club has spent so much money in the transfer market. But it goes a lot deeper than that.
The Glazer family’s ownership of Manchester United
How much money have the Glazers taken out of Manchester United?
Prior to the Glazer takeover, United had been debt free since the 1930s when James Gibson saved the club from bankruptcy. Immediately after the takeover, debt soared to £660m as a result of loans used to finance the takeover being secured against United’s assets.
In effect, United have been totally hamstrung by the Glazer family’s ownership model, which has seen an estimated sum of up to £1.6bn taken out of the club. That is in excess of £740m on paying interest on the debt, £147m in debt repayments, £166m in dividends, and director remuneration and management fees totalling nearly £80m – all paid out of the club’s earnings. On top of that, £465m worth of shares have been sold, with proceeds not going back into the club.
Forget how much has been spent, all of which has come from the club’s revenue streams rather than owner-led investment, United are £1.6bn worse off because of their owners.
For comparisons sake, from 2012 to 2021, owner funding at Manchester City totalled nearly £700m, over £500m at both Chelsea and Aston Villa, and close to £500m at Fulham and Everton.
When the Glazer takeover was completed in 2005, United had a world leading stadium and training ground. Now, the facilities at Old Trafford and Carrington lag behind rival clubs because of a startling relative lack of investment over an extended period of time.
Have the Glazers funded Manchester United's transfer business?
As for signings, there is no denying that huge sums of money have been spent on players. But for too long there doesn’t seem to have been a plan from the Old Trafford hierarchy, often lurching between conflicting philosophies and lacking the kind of identity that has been built across town.
The recruitment has been alarmingly consistently poor, with only a handful of players in the post-Ferguson era that could be considered a success. United have also often struggled to close high-profile deals in a way that rival clubs like Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea simply haven’t, resorting to pulling out or over-paying, indicative of a lack of relevant expertise in the field.
The combined effect of the parasitic ownership model taking money out and failing to execute sporting operations on a level comparable with competitors has cut United adrift. Fans want United to win, but as a bare minimum they expect the club to at least be punching at its own weight and not having its hands tied by the very people supposed to acting in its best interest.