Much of the frustration and analysis of casual observers regarding Manchester United’s dip in form this season has been around new manager David Moyes. But the analysis has failed to recognize the slip in competitive position in the transfer market inflicted by the club’s American owners.
The Red Devils commercial revenues worldwide are roughly similar to Barcelona or Bayern Munich, but both of those clubs have twice or three times the spending power of United currently. The Glazer’s leveraged buyout of the club in 2005 was always going to lead to some kind of long-term financial pain, and while some of Manchester United’s transfer business hasn’t helped (losing Paul Pogba, spending £18 million on Ashley Young and £27 million on Marouane Fellaini), the amount of money leaving the club on non-football related matters annually is alarming.
The attempts to float shares of the club publicly and refinance via multiple American hedge funds in 2010 was again simply a measure to put off the pain for some years. From where I sit, United’s competitive position has been eroded in the English game even while the club was collecting trophies. The pain that was always going to come United’s way has now hit front and center at a time when Chelsea and Manchester City have wealthy big-spending owners while Arsenal’s Emirates hangover has ended and now can open up the purse strings.
Despite the Glazer’s plunging of the Red Devils into debt, United’s global footprint is greater now than any time prior to the Glazer takeover. The work the ownership group has done expanding the brand recognition of United outside of Europe has to yield greater sponsorship and commercial dollars in the near future. But this perhaps is a long-term fix when the short-term problems that now exist were due to the way in which the Glazers financed the club takeover and then refinanced its ownership five years later.
If United fail to finish in the top three this season, does this force the Glazer’s to change their management approach or even sell the club?