Never mind the numbers or the money. This is about the fans. It is not about Malcolm Glazer.
When the billionaire took control of Manchester United, Glazer went against the will of the team’s supporters, ignoring their wishes and siding instead with personal financial interests. Typical, I know.
But does Glazer know what he is getting himself into? Soccer is a not a way of life for these fans — it is life. Manchester’s supporters make Philadelphia Eagles fans look like soccer moms.
Every day, with another protest, it is becoming apparent that Glazer may be getting in over his bald head. It’s not like he bought the San Jose Earthquakes. He went after the world’s largest, most famous athletic club, which is bigger than the Yankees, the Cowboys or the Lakers. It is a case of “I’m rich. I can do whatever I want to whomever I want. Don’t try to stop me.”
Even if it means isolating and infuriating the very fans of the team he now owns, Glazer doesn’t care. They wore black to a recent match, Malcolm. In case you didn’t know, Manchester’s uniforms are red.
But all Glazer can see is green. He does not see the tradition, the history and the passion the fans share with their club. Perhaps the only thing comparable to the enthusiasm of the fans is Glazer’s greed.
Understandably, the fans are mad. Hooligan mad. And their reactions — hanging or burning likenesses of Glazer and chanting threats — are justified. If they do not want Glazer to own their team, they have the right to say so. The fans of the biggest club in the world don’t want him there. Glazer should respect that.
As a result of the death of eight of its players in an airplane crash in 1958, Manchester United holds a unique place in English soccer folklore. With the same coach at the helm, the club recovered to win the coveted European Cup in less than 10 years. A clock outside the stadium is set permanently at the date and time of the disaster. Imagine someone who has no knowledge of the Curse of the Bambino buying the Red Sox and you’ll have some idea of how the team’s fans feel.
Now there is talk among the Manchester faithful of boycotting the team’s sponsors. But if the supporters really want to send a message expressing their dissatisfaction with Glazer’s takeover, my advice would be to boycott the opening home game next season (the 2005 season recently ended.) Since Glazer cannot hear the noisy protests, perhaps the sound of a silent Old Trafford would find his attention. Glazer may have the money, but a boycott would reveal the fans have the power.
After all, Manchester United doesn’t belong to Malcolm Glazer. It belongs to the fans. And deep down, Glazer must be beginning to realize that he’ll never really own this team.