The retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson after leading Manchester United to their 20th league title last year signalled the beginning of a new era for the club. It was always likely that David Moyes, the man chosen by Ferguson and the Glazer family, would face a baptism of fire to replicate the wonderful success that has become synonymous with Manchester United. What transpired throughout the 2013/2014 took many by surprise, as the defending champions never looked likely of retaining their title as they performed well below their high expectations on the pitch. Mistakes were also made off the pitch, with new chief executive Ed Woodward arguably being as culpable for Manchester United’s demise as Moyes and the players.
While the multi-million pound signing of Marouane Fellaini was highly questionable and unsuccessful, there can be no question that the Glazer family provided Moyes with an element of financial backing that allowed for Fellaini and Juan Mata to join the club. Malcolm Glazer was at the heart of financial control at Manchester United following his takeover in 2005 which was met by protests by a small section of fans due to concerns over where the finances were coming from. The sad news of his death on May 28th 2014 led to his sons Avram and Joel taking greater control over the day-to-day running of the club, but it may also have a knock-on effect on Manchester United’s future in terms of how they operate as a business off the pitch. Louis Van Gaal will be without Malcolm Glazer’s powerful presence as a business owner when he becomes manager after the World Cup, with many bookmakers predicting that Manchester United will fare better next season. The sports book review service shows odds ranging from 7-1 to 9-1 that Manchester United will take back the Premier League title from city rivals Manchester City in 2014/2015.
Malcolm Glazer and Manchester United
Malcolm Glazer spent the majority of his life building a strong business acumen, with a highly impressive portfolio of nationwide investments across America which includes marine protein, broadcasting, and natural gas and oil. Glazer bought the Tampa Bay Buccaneers franchise in 1995 and was influential in creating a massive upturn in fortunes, with seven Play-Off berths and winning Super Bowl XXXVII in 2003 against the Oakland Raiders. It whetted Glazer’s appetite for sports ownership and jumped at the chance to purchase shares in Manchester United in 2003. He progressively bought out United’s shareholders John Maginer and JP McManus over a two year period which provided enough stakes in the club to launch his successful £790 million takeover.
His takeover was meant to signal a new dawn for Manchester United who had become accustom to breaking transfer records and spending millions on new players that took the club to a new level. However, Glazer’s takeover not only transformed Manchester United into a more prudent club who were more focused on spending wisely than being over-elaborate, but also had the adverse effect in transforming the richest club in the world into one which owed the most amount of money to lenders and its owners. Manchester United began to fall well behind the spending power of Chelsea and Manchester City whose billionaire owners were far more prepared to delve into their pockets to attract the best players in the world to their club. What is more worrying to loyal fans is that their club was also overtaken by Liverpool and Tottenham in the spending power stakes which may have been a reason why all four clubs finished above Manchester United in the 2013/2014 season.
Despite the blockbuster deal which saw Dimitar Berbatov join the club in 2008, Sir Alex Ferguson abandoned his big-spending policy to pursue value for money and ensure the club’s future and financial stability remained healthy. A certain section of Manchester United’s fans were highly critical of Malcolm Glazer’s ownership and held protests amidst concerns that he was placing the club at severe financial risk, but Ferguson staunchly defended the owners who believed they were doing right by favouring a prudent approach over a kamikaze approach to spend millions without any guarantee of success.
The sad news of Malcolm Glazer’s death may not necessarily change the family’s ownership of Manchester United, but the club’s future could be shaped differently by Avram and Joel. There is already a pressing need for Manchester United to heavily invest this summer in what could be a hugely importantly period for the club. Louis Van Gaal will arrive at Old Trafford with many years of experience and success behind him, with his presence and extensive list of contacts being of great benefit to attract the best players across Europe to join the club. The likes of Kevin Strootman, Marco Reus and Mats Hummels have already been linked with Manchester United, although it remains to be seen whether the Glazers will be willing to back Van Gaal with the finances he requires to return the club to the top.