The Glazers Out protests are once again intensifying at Old Trafford, with the Manchester United owners under fire from supporters.
But why are the Glazers so unpopular at Manchester United? The answer is complex and goes all the way back to their initial takeover of the club and the manner in which it was achieved. We've broken down the key details of why the Glazers Out movement is growing among Man United fans.
Who are the Glazers and why are they so unpopular?
Who are the Glazer family?
Family head Malcolm Glazer led the bid to take over Manchester United, and was a businessman from Rochester, New York in the United States. His business ventures ranged from owning real estate companies, TV stations, oil companies, and the NFL team the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Due to ill health, he slowly passed control of Manchester United over to his sons Joel and Avram Glazer, who are now co-chairmen. Malcolm Glazer passed away in 2014.
The family own a 90% controlling stake in the club. Their control of the NFL side the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has seen them lead the Bucs to two Super Bowls, as well as acquiring legendary quarter back Tom Brady.
When did the Glazers buy Manchester United?
The process of acquiring Manchester United began for the Glazers in 2003, with Malcolm Glazer buying his first share in March of that year. By the end of 2004, Glazer had acquired 30% of the club and was beginning to use his influence at a directorial level, and had confirmed his intention to bid for full control of the club.
After a long period of negotiations, Glazer completed his takeover by acquiring a 70% share in the club in May 2005. He acquired the club by buying Irish horse racing tycoons JP McManus and John Magnier out of their 28.7% stake.
How much did the Glazers buy Man United for?
The BBC reported in 2005 that the takeover cost Malcolm Glazer £790 million.
Why are Man United fans unhappy with the Glazers?
The immediate issue posed by the Glazers' takeover was that it was completed almost entirely using borrowed money (known as a leveraged buyout), and the Glazer family's debt was then transferred onto the club.
Manchester United were, in effect, debt free in 2005, but the takeover changed that. The debt bill at the Premier League side currently stands at €582.47 million, after a whopping increase of 11.8% over the past year, as interest payments continue to be made regularly.
As the club has continued to plunge further into debt, the Glazer family has continued to take dividend payments from the club. Supporters' groups slammed the Glazers in June for taking £11 million out of the club in their most recent dividend payment.
The financial mismanagement of the club is the biggest gripe of fan groups against the Glazers.
What's the problem at Manchester United? 🔴🤔 pic.twitter.com/VMHz4tvyH7
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) August 9, 2022
Alongside the poor financial situation, Manchester United fans are also frustrated with the underperformance of the team on the pitch.
In the eight years after the Glazers took over, United won five Premier Leagues and a Champions League but, since the departure of Alex Ferguson as manager in 2013, their fortunes have taken a severe turn for the worse. The club has gone through five full-time and three interim managers in the nine years since 2013, with only three trophies won in that time.
Manchester United have invested poorly in the transfer market, with big-money moves for Paul Pogba and Harry Maguire not winning over the fanbase, and consistent moves for ageing strikers such as Radamel Falcao and Edinson Cavani bringing mixed results.
The appointments made by the Glazers at the top of the club have also drawn ire from United fans, with former CEO Ed Woodward becoming a deeply unpopular figure with fans due to his poor transfer decisions.
Another unpopular incident came in 2021, when the "Super League" concept was launched by Europe's biggest clubs, with Joel Glazer one of the leading voices behind the concept. Widely condemned by the football world, the Super League fiasco saw another major division created between the Glazers and the club's fanbase.
Throughout their ownership, the Glazers have rarely been seen in Manchester, only worsening their image among the United fans.
When did the "Glazers Out" protests begin?
The Glazers' takeover was instantly unpopular with fans, and the board were initially wary to greenlight it because of concerns surrounding the financial management of the club.
The first protests happened instantly, with some fans going as far as to set up their own breakaway club FC United of Manchester. United of Manchester currently compete in the seventh tier.
Protests intensified in 2010, with the Champions League clash with AC Milan a particular flashpoint. Old Trafford was awash with green and yellow scarves as a symbol of resistance against the club's owners.
This was Old Trafford in 2010 in a CL RO16 match vs AC Milan and we were beating them 7-2 on aggregate pic.twitter.com/spiHkOSxIV
— Kelz (@Kelz_____) July 26, 2021
The Super League proposals led to the most intense protests against the ownership.
April and May 2021 saw rallies of Manchester United fans outside of Old Trafford, and the ire of the fans was most clearly seen when fans broke into the stadium and forced the postponement of a crucial Premier League game against Liverpool late in the 2020-21 season.
Throughout the Glazers' ownership, the fans have been vocal in their disapproval of the American ownership, with the above incidents merely flashpoints.
The protests once again intensified after a disastrous first game of the 2022-23 season, and transfer inactivity in the summer window. A group of Manchester United fans called for a boycott of the Premier League clash with Liverpool in August 2022 in order to force the hand of the Glazer ownership.
The Glazers Out movement has come against the backdrop of confusion from rival fans over the cause of the anger. Despite the fans' gripes, United have spent as much as any major Premier League club in the transfer market over the past decade, with major money spent on the likes of Paul Pogba and Harry Maguire, and the club reportedly having the highest wage bill in English football.
But, due to the leveraged takeover nature of the purchase of Manchester United, alongside the increase in debt, it is clear that the money being spent on transfers is not coming from the Glazers' investment, but from the club's revenues, as explained by Kaveh Solhekol on Sky Sports News this week.
Why do Man United fans protest with green and yellow scarves?
The use of green and gold scarves is one of the most distinctive pillars of the anti-Glazer movement at Old Trafford. The reason for this is that green and gold were Manchester United's original home colours when they were founded as Newton Heath in 1878. Fans use the green and gold colours in an attempt to tie in with the original identity of the club, in protest of the direction it has taken under the Glazers.
Will there be a takeover of Man United?
Knighton did previously attempt and fail to buy the club in the late 1980s, before being appointed to the board of directors. He namedropped Jim Ratcliffe in his interview as a potential member of his takeover consortium.
Billionaire Ratcliffe - the richest man in the UK in 2018 - was earlier this year linked to a takeover bid for Chelsea in the aftermath of Roman Abramovich's departure. Ratcliffe grew up a United fan, and his presence would make a takeover bid far more viable. His spokesperson recently confirmed that he would be interested in buying stakes in the club, with a view to future ownership. Partial sale of stakes appears to be something that the Glazers are open to.
The Glazers had repeatedly seemed unprepared to sell Manchester United until the Super League fallout. In 2021, The Times suggested that the Glazers could be convinced to sell the club for £4 billion pounds. Given that Ratcliffe bid £4.5 billion for Chelsea earlier this year, that figure could be doable for the British businessman.