Before starting this piece in earnest, I think it’s only fair to acknowledge my personal view about the Glazer family’s ownership of Manchester United. I’ve never been a fan of the takeover, nor do I agree with the way in which it was completed. I fully understand that Manchester United were always susceptible to a takeover bid given they were a publicly listed company and that the purchase by the Glazers complied with the requisite rules and regulations.
This article is not about Malcolm Glazer the man, but about the consequences of his and his family’s ownership of Manchester United.
Since the Glazer takeover, Manchester United have won five Premier League titles, three League Cups, five Community Shields, a Champions League and a FIFA Club World Cup. Take into account two further appearances in the Champions League final, losing both times to Barcelona, and missing out on another Premier League title by virtue of a last minute goal on the last day of the season by Sergio Aguero, and it’s fair to say that on the whole United have competed for trophies on a consistent basis, barring last season of course.
In fact, despite the unpopularity of the ownership, which culminated in the Green and Gold campaign in 2010, the Glazer era has been arguably the most successful in Manchester United’s history. The key question is, though, were United successful because of the Glazers or in spite of them?
It’s worth looking into the events that preceded the takeover because despite the relative success United enjoyed on the pitch prior to the takeover, the club was going through a difficult period off the field.
It is no secret that Sir Alex Ferguson has a passion for horse racing. He struck up a friendship with racing tycoons JP McManus and John Magnier. The Irish pair took an interest in Manchester United by purchasing shares and owning as much as 28.89% of the club.
The roots of Glazer’s takeover of Manchester United can, arguably, be traced to a horse, specifically ‘The Rock of Gibraltar.’ Magnier had given Ferguson co-ownership of ‘The Rock of Gibraltar,’ who went on to have a successful racing career earning over £1million in the process.
The nature of the ownership, though, became the center of a dispute between Ferguson and Magnier. The former Old Trafford boss believed that he was entitled to a half-share in the ownership of ‘The Rock of Gibraltar,’ which would have allowed him a cut of the lucrative stud rights. Magnier was of the belief that only the prize money would be shared. This led to a very public falling out between the pair and resulted in Ferguson suing the racing tycoon.
Magnier and McManus didn’t take this action lying down and ratcheted up the pressure on Ferguson, using their clout at Manchester United. The pair demanded United answer 99 questions pertaining to the club’s finances, transfer dealings, and affairs. This was particularly sensitive as there were reports that Ferguson’s son, Jason, allegedly secretly benefited financially from United’s transfer activities.