The Glazer family’s purchase of Manchester United was never the most popular move, but the bad feelings towards them may be spreading to the clubs legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
The initial anger that welcomed the Glazers’ leveraged buy-out did not necessarily dissipate, but it was momentarily eclipsed by success experienced on the pitch by the Old Trafford in the past few years.
Anger was renewed once more when last season’s early Champions League exit saw a significant drop in revenue, after the final appearance from the previous season had given them a timely boost, and the club announced they were planning an Initial Public Offering on the New York Stock Exchange.
Claiming it was to pay off some of the £437milllion debt United still had from the Glazer buyout, was an admission that their indebtedness was affecting the club’s ability to compete on the pitch.
However, The Guardian today reported that much of the profit gained from the share offering, which they hope will get close to £204million, could be paid to senior employees at the deposed Premier League champions.
Any such payment would contradict what was originally said would be done with profits from a flotation and the report even suggests Ferguson may benefit from this payment.
David Gill, United’s chairman, is also cited as a likely beneficiary, but it is the manager benefitting from the float of chares that many may find galling.
Ferguson has always toed the line with the American owners, as you would expect him to, but he was recently bullish when asked about those fans who protest the Glazers’ ownership.
“I think there are a whole lot of factions at United that think they own the club,” said the Scot to reporters recently.
“They will always be contentious about whoever owns the club and that's the way it has always been.
“When the Glazers took over here there was dissatisfaction, so there have always been pockets of supporters who have their views.
“But I think the majority of real fans will look at it realistically and say it's not affecting the team.”
Until recently this may have been true, but the surprise Champions League exit, followed by a thumping at the hands of Spanish side Athletic Bilbao in the Europa League and being pipped to the Premier League title by local rivals Manchester City could well spark off further discontent.
Ferguson is playing a dangerous game with his legacy by dismissing the concerns of many fans who are simply concerned that a debt-free club was bought by placing huge amounts of debt on it and about a further £550million has been taken out of the club to service that debt, in one way or another.
Ferguson is as close as you can get to being untouchable for a manager at a football club, but he is in danger of souring his legacy some if it turns out he said what he did and subsequently profited out of the owners continually acting in a way that is deeply concerning for a proportion of Red Devils supporters.
There is no suggestion that fans could turn on probably the best manager in English football history, but Ferguson needs to tread carefully when handling this issue.
Years of success are behind him and it would be a terrible shame if his final seasons at Old Trafford were tainted by an issue over something as distasteful as finance.