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As early evening ticked closer to 7pm, they began to tiptoe toward the center of Talbot Road, just over half a mile from Old Trafford. Before long, commuters were told to turn their cars around in a hurry.
With the sky filled with torches and road markings hidden beneath as much as 10,000 pairs of feet, disenfranchised Manchester United were ready to march out of the Tollgate pub. Many had been there for hours – hanging from fences, clambering against lampposts, wriggling in the beer garden.
This kind of action, singing through the streets of Stretford and paying little attention to the match ahead, is seen by many as their only outlet for the Glazer family. They sang about Malcolm Glazer being ‘in a box’, about killing his son Joel. A banner read, “Mutiny until our club is sold.”
Manchester United fans protested against ownership of the club by the Glazers before Monday’s game
They made their way past the famous match day bar The Trafford and arrived at a crossroads, right where United are located.
No one knows what Joel Glazer and the rest of the family are thinking right now, except that raising capital is urgently needed. A quick look at the latest bills, and the net debt of £495.7 million, proves it.
United fight against the faceless, whom the owners rarely see, and anger sometimes became idiotic. Cans were thrown at a bus full of young United supporters that the crowd mistook for Liverpool fans, the children described as ‘terrified’ by the bus company. The chants of killers and signing in were never far from the surface; bottles and cans rained down on the branch outside the East Stand, where thousands of people gathered for kick-off.
Organized United supporters marched through the stadium for kick-off against the Reds
Ahead of Monday’s game, there had been talks of a possible Sir Jim Ratcliffe takeover
There have been positive voices over the past week. Sir Jim Ratcliffe, Britain’s richest man, would love to take the helm, but on closer inspection, that business decision goes against everything that has made him a billionaire. If buying low and selling high is a modus operandi, then the Premier League doesn’t feel like the platform for another step in football. And that’s before the Glazers, and any potential valuation over £4 billion they could think of, are even mentioned.
Former board member Michael Knighton claims to have organized a consortium to make a bid – which, people around him say, have named three British billionaires ‘The Secret Knights’ – and that has been met with a dose of skepticism. Knighton was spotted in the club’s megastore yesterday.
Sportsmail reported last week that private equity firm Apollo had been in talks about buying a minority stake. And there is an important point to be made. The unanswered question is whether additional shares will be created to raise capital – so the money will go directly to United – or to any number of the family’s six siblings who will sell existing shares.
Thousands of disgruntled Manchester United protesters had gathered near the stadium
So here we were before kick-off, one August night in Manchester with no hope at the start of the season, no optimism from a new manager and no real cheers for a £60million midfielder, Casemiro, who arrived from Real Madrid. A passing fan begged his peers to “don’t bring negativity into the stadium.” For last night, the team had done enough alone.
“Frustration, and that sentiment from fans, is completely understandable,” said Ian Stirling of Man United Supporters’ Trust. “Almost £1.5bn has been taken out of the club without the club acting.
“No other Premier League club does that. We think that’s wrong. The stadium is in dire need of investment and lags behind others. Ours was world class – we can’t say that now. We have a squad that, despite the Glazers that allow us to spend the club’s revenue, is failing. Major investments are needed to turn this around.’
About 10,000 United supporters attended the protest on Monday night
There are some flags and banners set up near Old Trafford ahead of a 7pm march
Resistance and resentment linger. United’s fans, more than most, are at the mercy of those who own them because of the very global giant they support.
A boycott of Old Trafford by diehard regulars, who refuse to use their season tickets for matches, would be visually embarrassing but would not impact revenues. Likewise, turning one’s back for others to take a seat.
This is more nuanced than elsewhere, the ‘hit ’em where it hurts’ element of protesting doesn’t have the same shock. So they have to play smart, as those in red proved they can do it last night.
British businessman Michael Knighton was at the protest against the Glazer family
The anarchist faction is crucial, with the 1958 group stirring up emotions with visible protests like last night’s. MUST sit down at the table meanwhile – listened to by the hierarchy. Those two aspects, acting like pliers, can bring about change, but one cannot function properly without the other.
MUST is going ahead with their fanshare plan, agreeing to make additional shares available to purchase, keeping a small percentage of the club to secure the future.
Others, in green and gold, want immediate action from a family that has never shown an inclination to listen. Whether that changes is a guess.
There was a heavy police presence in the Tollgate pub where the United States protesters gathered