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The Red Devils are in the detail

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Matt Slater | 09:50 UK time, Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Manchester United fans, I've got some bad news.

Experts have clambered all over your team's accounts, got their calculators out and decided the whole shebang - the massive debt, the not-too-distant retirement of your inspirational "CEO", the reliance on one key performer and the growing threat from rival brands at home and abroad - is just about sustainable.

So, sorry, you're stuck with the Glazers. They've gone to the well again and drawn another £504m in IOUs.

It gets worse. Those experts didn't give you an unequivocal thumbs-up. They looked at the numbers, winced like car mechanics and said 'yeah, we can fix that, but it will cost you'. And I mean you - the tangible fans at Old Trafford and the intangible fans in Bangalore and beyond.

It's been about three weeks since rumours of the Manchester United bond first emerged but it seems like much longer. It took half a century and two World Wars for the sun to set on the British Empire but the pundits have called time on United's Premier League hegemony in under a month.

Bundled out of the FA Cup by old foes from across the Pennines, beaten in the Carling Cup by uppity neighbours and subjected to "where did it all go wrong?" analysis in the nation's sports pages, it has been a bleak midwinter for Sir Alex Ferguson and his men.

Sir Alex Ferguson and Roberto ManciniCity boss Mancini (right) wants to supplant Fergie's United as top dogs in Manchester

Even Prime Minister Gordon Brown was moved to comment on United's predicament, which is a terrible sign as he normally only comments on matters of the utmost seriousness, things like global warming, the recession and Britain's Got Talent.

But what's that you say? Look at the table? A game away from Wembley and all still to play for in Europe? Well, quite. It seems the picture is more complicated than some might suggest.

The carcass of the infamous bond prospectus has been picked clean by the papers so I won't dwell for too long on what The Guardian's David Conn described as the most dispiriting document in football history.

The sums the Glazers have given themselves, the cash they took out of the club to pay the debts they piled up buying United and the fees and charges they incurred refinancing it all are laid out over 322 pages of soulless sales pitch.

I realise this is a legal requirement but it must have hurt the Glazers to spell out the worst-case scenarios so candidly. It underlined just how much their gamble - and £716.5m of debt is a gamble no matter how you slice it - depends on what happens during those 90 minutes that used to start at 3.00pm on Saturdays. I find that quite heartening.

In a previous blog, I mentioned that most City traders I have spoken to said the bond would get off the ground but it would have to fly without them. Football was just too flaky an investment, even at mighty Manchester United.

One corporate bond expert, a regular at Old Trafford, told me he had asked his 10 biggest clients if they were interested and only one said yes. He also told me he had just been offered a price freeze on his season ticket if he reconfirmed by March.

And yet the club's financial advisors claim the issue was oversubscribed twofold, with 50 large "low-risk investors" buying the bonds. So what was it they could see in the Glazer's business methods that United fans and football writers could not?

In a word, money - a juicy return on investment, from a well-established cash cow, for the next seven years. They're not in this for love. The sterling-denominated bonds, half of the total, give a fixed return of 8.75% a year, with the rest going in dollars at a rate of 8.375%.

That's £45m a year in interest payments the club will have to meet, a higher total than was paid out this year. Which prompts the question, why have the Glazers done this?

It's the same answer but in a more roundabout way.

They borrowed about £500m from various banks to fund their takeover of United. The average interest rate on those loans was 8%-ish and they were secured against the club.

Unfortunately, £500m wasn't enough so they also borrowed £135m from three New York hedge funds. The average rate on that is a horrible 14.25% and it piles up annually. The total debt is now over £200m and if a chunk is not paid off this summer the rate will rise to 16.25%.

Man Utd fans protest against the club's ownersUnited fans made their feelings about the club's owners known before last Saturday's game against Hull

That is the scenario the Glazers were heading towards (and it was the Glazers in this case, because the hedge-fund debt is theirs, not the club's) but have probably now avoided with this bond issue.

Pre-bond, the bank loans were United's most senior debt (first in line to be repaid), with strict conditions attached. For example, the club had to make a minimum annual profit of £65m, before all the usual deductions. There was also no question of tackling the hedge-fund burden before settling with the banks.

Post-bond, the banks and their troublesome small print are off the Glazers' backs. They can now use up to £70m of the club's cash to reduce their personal liabilities. That, however, doesn't make them go away: we should expect another refinancing, although it might not be so easy next time.

The bonds are currently being traded between investors for 5% less than they were worth on Friday. When I asked one City insider what this meant, he said: "The quality of investors was poor. Sensible investors avoided it because it was too expensive."

A poor opening on the secondary market will not affect the Glazers in the short term - they've got their half a billion come what may - but it does hurt their reputation. Losing a section of the Old Trafford crowd is one thing; annoying investors is another. Try it again and it could be a case of 'Ah, junk bond, we've been expecting you'.

All this FT stuff, of course, should be completely irrelevant when Wayne Rooney and co attempt to put those arrivistes from Eastlands in their place in the second leg of the Carling Cup semi-final.

But the truth is that anything other than a convincing victory for United will prompt further speculation about the financial foundations of their global ambitions. Comparisons with the money's-no-object owners of Manchester City will not flatter the Glazers.

There is a fin de siecle mood in Manchester these days but to suggest that City will be knocking United off their perch any time soon is a bit previous and the evidence of such a reversal is patchy.

A day after Ferguson appeared to prepare for the departure of £20m-rated Nemanja Vidic by signing Chris Smalling for £7m, a little-known Brazilian prospect snubbed City for not being a "big European club". There's still a gulf between the clubs but Arab money is filling it.

So let's enjoy this evening's contest for what it is, the second act of fiercely competitive cup tie, and let the money men worry about debt thresholds and yield management. What happens on the pitch will settle the Glazers' fate much quicker than any fans' protest or belated regulatory response from football's inattentive authorities.

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  • Comment number 1.

    Very depressing reading

    Glazers OUT!!!!

  • Comment number 2.

    Since when did finanical times pages become the staple diet of the football reporter. It seems anyone and everyone is trying to make a story out of Man Utd Football club and it's demise on the field. I actually will point to the table and relevant competitions, to the injury list, and to my open mouth if you are seriously thinking Vidic is going before the end of this month. It's more likely that Smalling is a replacement for the cover they have lost this year. There was at one point not one fit defender in the first team.
    I have a right royal pain in my backside, reading about chicks, car crashes, bentleys, underwear, razors, and Beckham. Could you please please stick to the football. There is sod all I can do about Man United finances or Liverpools, or City's. I don't follow football to know who spent how many russian roubles trying to get a dutch man buy a piece of an English club. I follow it for the football.

  • Comment number 3.

    Just to add, your conjecture might be right, the club as a business might be on the verge of ruin...frankly it's not footie. Fergie might be forced to sell the whole of the first team, and they might get relegated, and I will still look for the match reports and follow the team sheets and news about the football aspects of the club and I will still seek out a jersey or scarf or whatever every season, because despite living too far away, I have followed united since I was lad over 35 years ago, through thick and thin. I just want news about the footie. You lot are going to bang on about their demise if the win or loose tonight, you will gleefully laugh at City if United win and Gleefully jump on the band wagon gathering pace screaming the END IS NIGH, look how much we miss Ronaldo and other such Rubbish. Strewth!

  • Comment number 4.

    Well said Collie21...i couldnt agree more!
    It's all about the football and win or lose i like my football the way its played at OT.

  • Comment number 5.

    I have to agree with #2 and #3. At the end of the day it's all about the football. Football history shows that there is never one team at the top all the time. Man United have experienced great success for a great period of time, and as a fan I am extremely lucky to have experienced that, as my dad was before me in the Busby era.

    I am looking forward to the game tonight. It should be a cracker. Roll on United.

  • Comment number 6.


    Forgive me but I am a bit confused. In your description, it says you follow Olympics and all things related so I eagerly read the article thinking you were about to give some insight into how the United debt was linked to the Olympics and all part of some master plan the Glazers have.

    Imagine my disappointment to find it's just a rehash of stuff I read last week. Anyway, I guess there's nothing else to write about so I'll just take it as every journo has to provide their own take on things.

    Yes, we are in strife but we will carry on and one day the great master plan of the Glazers will be revealed. Hopefully it will not be too late for my kids to realise what a great club we were before they came along.

  • Comment number 7.

    Apologies for the long winded nature of my first paragraph. Next time I'll preview.

  • Comment number 8.

    'It's about the football' -- willful blindness, if not actual ignorance. The football is directly related to financial performance, and has been ever since the incorporation of the club. Intelligent fans pay close attention to their team's performance in the financial leagues as well as the FA leagues, because they know that the two are intimately connected.

  • Comment number 9.

    Sorry, but as a blue can't help myself. USA USA USA

  • Comment number 10.

    Don't worry Matt, as a neutral I find this interesting!

    I haven't been pawing over the news stories like the united fans rightly have been, so it has been good to read a clear resume of the situation.

    One thing I did read previously was that the glazers are paying themselves (and their companies) a lot of money out of the club, rather than paying more off the massive debt, or giving old red-face cash for transfers.

    I believe the united fans should be very concerned; unless they were shareholders before the Glazer's turned up, they won't gain anything from what they are doing to the club. The Glazer's will disappear as soon as the debts are paid or they can sell united to someone else for a profit - they know they are not welcome any more. Unfortunately, that won't be happening for at least 5 years, especially if they need more investment in the future. Interest rates will be rising very soon.

    United will not be able to buy big players without selling, which will be a strange situation for them...

  • Comment number 11.

    Win a tin pot or two and all the journalist will forget this. And as you said it's been weeks that people have been reporting this and it long since became tiresome. Not just for United fans I imagine. Spurs moved 4 clear into the top 4. Arsenal look strongest than the have done in 6 or 7 years. Villa are Cup finalist, still on course in another cup and stand a good chance in the race for 4th. Pompey have been given a glimmer of hope with a lifted transfer embargo. Owen Coyle faced Burnley... And the small matter of a semi final tonight.

    And that's just from teams in the Premier League.

  • Comment number 12.

    I can't believe some people choose to bury their heads in the sand by saying "It's all about the football". Problem for united is, even if the glazers decide enough is enough and want to step away from the club, who's gonna be able to afford the 800mm it'll cost to buy United off them and settle their debts.

    I'm a United fan, but as much as i love them, it's still pretty scary stuff. At the moment we look strong enough, more than strong enough, to stay in the top 4 - but, if we can't buy any new players next summer, and we lose a vidic or, god forbid, a rooney, then it isn't impossible we could miss out on the top 4 the year after, and if that happens, well, what happened to Leeds could happen again you know?!

    Pleading ignorance and burying your head in the sand is basically how the credit crunch all started, so lets not be so naive to suggest this could never happen to united, just cos they're such a huge club.

  • Comment number 13.

    No good united fans sticking their head in the ground and /or just watching the footie. That is their arrogance and we're better than you so live for now attitude coming out It may not be so good to watch if the worst happens and no 'good enough' new players can be bought. At the end of the day their youth policy won't help as no new kids come through anymore.

  • Comment number 14.

    For years we have heard from United fans that it wasn't the money that had made them so successful, it was "Alex" or "Our will to win" or "our great youth set-up". Well I guess in the next year or two we will find out just how much of the success did come from the money.
    And for those who point to being top, in a semi-final, and still in CL, I will point out that 2 years ago when the banking system all but collapsed and the recession became inevitable, unemployment was half what it is today. You see, results on the field are a lagging indicator...look at Liverpool.

  • Comment number 15.

    I can't believe in this dayand age people still think it's 'just about the football'. Manchester United have been a business for nigh on 20 years. They are owned by a group of people operating that business solely for financial gain.

    Mountaingoat61 likes the way that football is played at OT, the point is if the business is failing, assests (players) will be sold and no money will be available for new ones. Thats why, collie21, the FT pages are now the staple diet of the football reporter. I'm sure some manchester united fans will stick with their clubs through thick and thin, but to say you're only interested in the football and this has nothing to do with it is frankly ludicrous.

    Sorry to those to whom i'm stating the obvious; but to some people it isn't.

  • Comment number 16.

    It seems to me that until Manchester United's market value equals or exceeds their debt the Glazers will happily remain drawing their 25 mill a year. Like most other United supporters it is only when the debt issue impacts on our performance on the pitch that it becomes a real issue, unless season ticket prices rise by unreasonable amounts. Mine costs around 500 a year which is competative if not affordable! If United fail to rebuild, if the team struggles and we are unable to recruit, then its a problem, right now its a distraction.

  • Comment number 17.

    Good Blog ..Bad news is always the comments above, but you Man U supporters , for whom I have every sympathy..a great club, great history..need to understand where the money to pay this debt is going to come from:- YOU
    This is a quote from the Guardian which examines the Glaziers financial prospectus:-In a 322-page document, the section headed "Strategy" is noticeably short; a single page which states United must just carry on as they are, make money – including a commitment to "maximise ticket revenue" – THAT MEANS TICKET PRICES ..also EVERYTHING ELSE MAN UTD that you buy.
    When was the last time that 16% of corporate boxes at Old Trafford remained unsold?
    When you hand over your hard earned money to watch your team, just remember thst a good chunk of that is going straight into the Glaziers pockets to finance their lifestyle. It is not going to improve the team or to make sure you remain one of the biggest ( if not THE biggest ) teams in the world.
    For those of you who go on about 'its about the football' the Glaziers must be laughing so hard, they love this type of supporter ' turkeys voteing for Christmas'.
    Its a business to make money first not to entertain you, the banks and financial institutions have no interest in you other than the pounds you press willingly into the clubs hands,,,and by club I mean the Glaziers.

    Do you really ..with your hands on your hearts ..think that the only reason SAF has not spent a big chunk of the Ronaldo money improving the because he thinks the players are overpriced??

    The problem is a vicious circle..the supporters do not like what is happening being charged so they stay away ..that loss of revenue only quickens the clubs demise into financial ruin,,but of course the Glaziers know you wont stay away because like it or loath it this is the club you love and will pay up whatever they charge you.

    Sorry I have deep respect for Man U and its history and traditions which are being drained away .

  • Comment number 18.

    That's the debt exceeding the market value of course not the other way round sorry!

  • Comment number 19.

    I agree with 'jimmysavillescigar', due to this debt United will have to sell top assets to meet the high interest demands on their monstrous debt, there is no other way around it, and this will affect the football played at Old Trafford! When this happens maybe you will start to care about the financial situation off the pitch...

  • Comment number 20.

    The huge gulf between "Rich" and "the rest" clubs gets bigger with every investor that identifies it's folly. Remembering the disasters of Leeds and Newcastle (The former horrendously overspending and costing them almost the ultimate) nothing has not been learnt from these episodes.

    With the backing of the ADU Group at Eastlands, RA at Chelsea, also but lessly the likes of Carson Yeung at Birmingham and Randy Lerner at Villa, the mindset of open chequebooks and massive squads that include reserve players being paid 3 times the salary of a top championship player is unfortunately becoming more and more common.

    I'd be worried being a supporter of these clubs for a "Leeds Revistied". When the owners walk away (which they will), the wage bills will be there, the previous 5 managers will still need paying (Peter Reid is still on the Leeds payroll) and the depths of administration will call.
    Not because I dislike any of the million/billion-aire backed clubs, but I'd love one to come a financial cropper, leaving them to the receivers unscrewing the seats from the terraces.
    It'll serve them right for taking a gamble of success for today without preparing for the struggles of a chairmanless andf moneyless tomorrow.

    I think a lesson can be learnt from the organisation that head up Loftus Road. QPR's owners combined wealth rivals(ish) that of Sheikh Mansour but the cheque book is as much closed as is at Doncaster or Southampton. They are bringing players through a decent youth scheme, taking players on free's or loan and playing the Championship on a level playing field.

    If either/some or all of the trio of Mittal, Briatore and Ecclestone walk away, the club will survive because no Robinho's, Messi's or Jose Mourinho's will have been put on the payroll for now until eternity.

    As in the world of general finance, it seems football has made mistakes historically but not learnt from them. Maybe the chanting of "One team in Manchester" will be all too true soon enough.

    If things carry on like this, perhaps they'll be no teams in Manchester with no-one to chant anything?

  • Comment number 21.

    As a united fan, I believe It is absolutely imperative to highlight that the Business side of Football is as important as success on the pitch. Over the years, United success on the Pitch has tanslated into financial success, player re-enforcement and ultimately the acquisition of a better team to ensure continued Success. Frankly, I find it quite sad that we have a debt of such magnitude and "Robbing peter to pay paul" is not the way to balance our books. I believe we can learn a thing or two from clubs pompey and Crystal palace who have in dire financial situation.
    Just remember that the Glazers dont care about United, to them it is just another business venture and they will be so quick to count their losses and move on if the business is no longer profitable.
    I believe may be it is time for all Manchester United fans to come together and form a trust to buy the club back from the Glazer Family!!!

  • Comment number 22.

    Bundled out of the FA Cup by old foes from across the Pennines, beaten in the Carling Cup by uppity neighbours and subjected to "where did it all go wrong?" analysis in the nation's sports pages, it has been a bleak midwinter for Sir Alex Ferguson and his men.

    Yes, Leeds beat us (even Chelsea lose occasionally you know), and we were only beaten in the first leg by one definite and one arguable goal that shouldn't have been. Everyone always loves to get onto the "it's all over for United" bandwagon, just as they love to get onto the "it's their year" bandwagon for Liverpool. The past has demonstrated that it is unwise to think that way.

    That said we do rely alot on one player to score goals (does that mean we were a two or three man team last year after all, since Tevez is now so amazing?), but then most teams do. But we suffered just as much when we lost Fletcher, or when we play Park in place of anyone else. What good is a car, without either it's tires or steeringwheel, engine or driver?

    However, the financial situation is worrying - and always will be. It is all very well for Brown to get on his hobby-horse and point fingers at club's debts (incidentally, how is he doing with our National debt? oh... right) but it was his open door policies that have allowed takeovers like this, which shouldn't have been allowed.

    How is it in our country's interests to allow them to happen? Do they not appreciate the implications outside of football, that such a major English brand crashing would have? Maybe another would take their place, like Chelsea did with Leeds and City have with Liverpool.

    But it is incredible that a company which made enough profit to plough 30 million+ a season into the playing squad should still be delivering on the football side, but be starting to have it's hands tied just because someone who didn't actually have enough money wanted to buy them.

    Let's just say, if that had happened to Cadbury, there would have been serious questions raised.

  • Comment number 23.


    I am afraid you cannot blame the government for least not this have to go back to the days of Mrs Thatcher to find the real culprit of starting this asset stripping game.
    You need to realise, that NO ONE IN THE FINANCIAL SECTOR cares about the ' english brand' as you call it . If it makes them money they will sell it it Gas,Water,Telephone or football clubs. It is of no concern to them, just numbers in black on a balance sheet.When the pounds start calling people come running and forget their well intentioned principals.

  • Comment number 24.

    @21 - "I believe may be it is time for all Manchester United fans to come together and form a trust to buy the club back from the Glazer Family!!!"


    Have you thought why this has not been done already?

    Believe it or not, a sum of approximately £1 Billion is actually a lot of money.

    Let's say you find a super rich business man with £500 million in cash. There are, ooo, millions of those knocking around aren't they? Then all you need to do is find another 5 million fans to put £100 each in. After all, 5 million people isn't much is it?

    It's laughable. Manchester United is completely out of the reach of a fans trust by a million miles and that's why you don't see the idea being touted by all and sundry.

    In this region there is an NUFC Supporters Trust trying to raise a mere £100 million to buy Newcastle United - and they've been trying for months and months without success.

    Figures are very easy to bandy about but the reality is that raising millions, never mind a billion pounds sterling, is way beyond most supporter trusts, resources, clubs or whatever nowadays.

  • Comment number 25.

    oh delightful another 'sports' correspondent on the financial goings on at united, hopefully Peston will give you some cred for this in the cafeteria later.

  • Comment number 26.

    p.s. Ironically, with the exception of the top 5 of the rich list in the USA, none of whom would be stupid enough to get into football, and one or two royals in the east, the only person with enough money to buy Manchester United.....owns their neighbours.

    Maybe he'll buy them and use OT as a training ground?

  • Comment number 27.

    As a True Red I am extremely concerned with the Glazer debacle. Look at the facts, We have been bought out as a plc by a consortium of Yankee doodle dandees who have massively borrowed at exhorbitant rates, seem to need in excess of £22m in "consultancy" fees (although what they could possibly teach us as one of the most profitable football clubs in the world who seemed to be doing ok before - Thank you very much!). We Need a Goalkeeper EVDS is nearly 40 and our oldest player since the war, a new right-back (sorry Nev), one maybe even two Centre halves (Rio - 30, back, Vida OFF), Replacement for Giggs/Scholes, A Left winger and TWO Strikers. Even if it turned out to be only six players we'd still need around £100m. All this off the back of a report that shows our finances to be in dire straits which has come after one of the most successful periods on the pitch ever! three times champions on the trot, back to back ECL finals. I cant see how things are going to get any better as we will fail to replace players become worse as a team and start to drop out of the running for the Prem and even Champions League hence making the burden on our backs all the heavier as we struggle to meet repayments to line the Leprechaun pockets

  • Comment number 28.

    So to clarify, Manchester United are stuck with the debt and stuck with the Glazers so are also stuck with a civil war and the long but inevitable road to where Liverpool are now...which is nice.

  • Comment number 29.

    Collie, seeing as football clubs are run as a business, some of us fans appreciate the fact that somebody is explaining all this. If you dont want to read it, dont come onto this blog, read a different one. The reason it has become news is because Platini wants to implement financial fair play and also the finances at some of the biggest clubs are becoming less and less secure. I bet you will suddenly become a whole lot more interested if the debts are called in and the club goes up for sale or faces a winding up order. If you want to read about on the pitch, go to phil mcnulty or tim vickery's column.

  • Comment number 30.

    "United go into administration" , ünited sold for a pound"
    What a shame.. not.

  • Comment number 31.

    In reply to 1,2,3,4 and 5.

    Whilst i agree with your views and what you're saying that the football on the pitch is the most important and the reason why we all love football and our respective teams! I must say that if I was a UTD fan I would be very interested and concerned about the financial issues. In modern football as boring as it is the financial side of things are vital!

    I am a Chelsea fan and as shocking as it may be I am saddened by what i see going on at UTD. Unless there is a takeover at the club I can only see things going one way and that is down. With the financial mess they are in eventually they will not be able to compete in the transfer market, have to sell key players and eventually performances will slip and so the downward spiral starts! I truely hope this doesnt happen! It would be a detrement to football in this country if one of the greatest teams in the world over the last couple of decades was to demise because of a bunch of useless YANKS!

    On to the issue of tonights match, I'll be hoping that UTD stuff their Oasis scum loving neighbours! bring back to earth with a huge bump!

    Right i'm off to have a shower now coz all this defending and praising UTD has made me feel dirty!

  • Comment number 32.

    The reaction from some of these 'so called' Manchester United fans is truly astonishing.

    Those that bury their head in the sand, one can only assume don't care about the club at all, and provide strong evidence that there are many plastic, glory hunting supporters that follow this club.

    I guess they will just move on to support the next one once they are done with United!

  • Comment number 33.

    Sadly the only way to hurt get the Glazers out is to stop going to the match, many of us made that tough decision 5 years ago & formed FC United. There will be 1,500 of us tonight at Gigg Lane standing & singing for 90 minutes.

    Supporter owned clubs is the only way we can stop the money men ruining football. Good luck tonight to United & FC!

  • Comment number 34.


    @21 - "I believe may be it is time for all Manchester United fans to come together and form a trust to buy the club back from the Glazer Family!!!"
    "Have you thought why this has not been done already?"
    FYI - A trust HAS already been set up. I suggest you take a look at
    @2, 3, 4, 5 (and others) I must admit that I can't believe all of the apathy of the United fans on here that are of the attitude that as long as the football's OK then that's fine.
    The Glazer takeover has taken approximately 325million quid out of the club over the last five years. Just imagine what the football (and stadium for that matter) would have been like had we had that kind of money available?
    Finally, @Mattt, thanks for the article and keep 'em coming. People are at last waking up to the fact that the Glazer takeover was a very, very bad thing for MUFC.

  • Comment number 35.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 36.

    Money men have run (and milked) United for 30 years. Louis giveth to Martin who floateth to the City (via failed Maxwell and Knighton adventures) who selleth to the Glazers. Whats new? Sure the salad days will come to an end for us just as they did for Liverpool.. but not just yet. It was Rafa who was apparently going to knock us the hated Mancs off our perch last season and now its Mancini : 2-0 United tonight - Mancini out by end of season..

  • Comment number 37.

    Mr Slater

    You wouldn't keep your job if you wrote the following, so I'll write it for you.

    Man Utd were the most profitable franchise in the world when they listed on the Stock Market. They had no need to do so, other than a means for Martin Edwards and other shareholders to find an 'exit'. Presumably as they were too lazy to think of other ways to do so.

    JP Magnier and JP McManus made £100m gambling on MUFC shares by selling to a family who didn't buy the shares in cash. They bought it with £500m+ debt.

    Net effect: a club without debt and highly cash generating became indebted for no reason other than to enrich bankers and raiders. I repeat: no other reason but to enrich bankers and raiders.

    As a result, season ticket holders pay more, to enrich bankers and pay the raiders 'consultancy fees'. No other reason: to enrich bankers and pay consultancy fees. They will keep doing so as the bankers hope that the club can pay the interest but not the capital and the raiders see a nice little line in 'consultancy' for years to come. Then there will be another refinancing when this bunch of bond-holders want the capital back too. So it goes on.

    If you paid your house down and were told to start paying again, would you think that fair?

    I feel sorry for Man Utd supporters - rich bankers don't need subsidies. They should lend money to build stadia, working capital to support stock management and capital purchase where returns are clear and repayment reasonably secure, but they should not become spongers who bleed clubs dry to support foreign raiders solely interested in filching the hard-earned riches of others.

    I'm an Arsenal fan.

  • Comment number 38.

    Re Comment 24 according to the web there are 320 million Man Utd fans worldwide. Surely between us we could raise enough money and get the glazer family out. I would put in a grand straight away - just dont tell the wife!

  • Comment number 39.

    Matt, great article for the business pages! I don't understand why this is posted on the sport pages where you are supposed to be reporting on the Olympics???

    Regardless of the financial situation of the club I among thousands of others will still turn up to support the team we all love!

    United's financial success came with the success we have had on the pitch thanks to sir Alex's hard work and dedication to the club! City & Chelsea are trying to buy success without any foundations which will always fall down!

    We'll keep the red flag flying high cos man utd will never die!!

  • Comment number 40.

    @ Gangsta Agger

    I wrote to Obuluwade Okonkwo,and I am now the happy recipient of $800 million.

    Unfortunately, I have suddenly found my long love affair with Manchester United has waned.

    Oh well, must dash. Lots of useful things to buy.

  • Comment number 41.

    The press love to pick on United, when we lost to Chelsea this season we played them off the park, when i saw the highlights on MOTD it was a different game completely. Even against City a penalty that wasn't a penalty, Bellamy and Tevez kicking lumps out of our players and getting away unpunished. We'll show them tonight.

  • Comment number 42.

    @ no 31 ALEX "the Brazillian Centre half for Chelski!"

    Nice opinion you have there. Are you by any chance still at school on your lunchbreak in the computer room ;-)?

    Why do Manchester City need "bringing back to earth with a bump"?

    That comment sounds to me like a fan who not too long ago supported the richest club in the PL but no longer holds that title or a 12 year old like i suggested above?

    Are you worried about us eclipsing Chelski? Is it because we are trying to buy the PL trophy? Not like Chelsea have done that recently or Liverpool / Utd trying to do the same by splashing out countless millions each season to compete for the order of 1st to 4th !

    I find your comment rather insulting as a football fan (but I guess not too long ago you were int he woodwork like all other Chelski fans till the Abramovich "cash out of Russia" brigade turned up)

    I accept you would want Utd to win (hey it is a free world and I respect that choice!) but your reason is a little bit unfair.

    This may surpise you but I actually feel sorry for Utd as the fans (not the glory supporters of the last 15 years or so!), but the genuine fans are being told stories which you should not ever have to hear when you support the BIGGEST football team in the world.

    As much as I despise Utd (I really do!), I would miss them if they are not our BIGGEST rivals on and off the pitch.

    They are too big to fall.... Where did I hear that before??

  • Comment number 43.

    I know most football fans just want to follow their club and discuss on the pitch matters BUT please get real!! You SHOULD be interested in this because football is now business. Like the banks many clubs are borrowing more than than they can eventually afford from people and institutions that are NOT interested in fans or Football. But unlike the banks there will be no government bail out when those people or institutions pull the fiancial carpet from under your feet. Football all over the world has to wake up and realise it should only pay what it can definitely recoup. One day soon a big club with decent fans and a decent history will be lost but who will actually care?

  • Comment number 44.


    Obviously you must think it is just a joke. Do you thaink this is the right forum to display this kind of foolishness?
    As a Nigerian myself, it is sad that people like you contribute negatively to the over perception and image of Nigerians all around the world.
    If you dont have anything meaningful to contribute, please do NOT waste anyone's time.

  • Comment number 45.

    Is it not true that this is pretty normal business practice?

    The Glazers are real money billionaires, but billionaires don't buy companies from their own money, they borrow. A staple of the business world...

    So its not like they are broke, if the club got in massive trouble they could put money in.

    And please, lets not forget, this season aside, they have never been shy of spending money for Utd...

  • Comment number 46.

    What makes this so sad is that United has always been run in a financially sensible way. Up until this debt, we didn't spend more than we could afford. It's true that United used to spend shedloads of money on players and of course that created a significant advantage to allow us to perpetuate the success. However, high spending was based upon relatively high income, due to: success on the pitch, attractive football, good marketing and a strong tradition.

    It's ironic that our nouveau rich neighbours have done everything wrong (woeful football, regular managerial sackings, poor administration etc...) and yet the arrival of a sugar-daddy has made money no-object and suddenly their situation is healthy whilst ours is woeful.

    I feel like a child when I have to say "It's just no fair".

  • Comment number 47.

    all the recent sucess will come at a price....they need to try and rid the debt and get out of the red as soon as interesting to see tonights match.....will the blue moon overcome the red devil?......amazing contrast between the financial might of city and the debt ridden united.....however united have some good youth and should look at developing them as they wont really be able to buy any superstars untill the debt has gone....

  • Comment number 48.


    I know what you're saying about it not being the government to blame because "NO ONE IN THE FINANCIAL SECTOR cares about the ' english brand'" but that's why the government SHOULD have gotten involved. All the profit generated by a British company is now going to line the pockets of mostly US bankers. The same charming ncuts who caused a worldwide global recession.

    Companies float, and are open to attack. But that is why reasonable safeguards should be in place to prevent bad purchases. Didn't the government give some verbal warnings against letting Murdoch take ownership? I'm sure I remember something akin to that.

    At 1:33pm on 27 Jan 2010, rjaggar wrote: the truth

    "a club without debt and highly cash generating became indebted for no reason other than to enrich bankers and raiders."

    as a general point though, United are strong enough a club that they won't end up being wound up any time soon. It may affect the team for a while, and rather than buying in stars we'll be buying in talents to develop (much as we always have). It may turn out that the Glaziers are forced to sell and not make as much profit, but they certainly aren't going to let it crash and burn. They may be complete ncuts but they're not stupid.

  • Comment number 49.

    44 Seye........

    The English have many faults, but one positive trait we do have is the ability to laugh at ourselves, as well as at others.

    We would have an appreciation for someone writing a witty article making a generalisation about the English. It happens often enough!

    So lose that big chip of your shoulder and take a chill pill!

    If you can't do that,leave the blog!

  • Comment number 50.

    re 39

    'regardless of the financial situation of the club'

    A wonderful statement but if the Glaziers ruin you financially , there may not be a club for you to turn up to, or at least one that you recognise.
    Chelsea and City have the luxury of having money put in..not taken out , so if their backers pull out they will survive and another buyer can be found because the clubs are not saddled with debt. Man U has a huge debt which no one is going to want to take over.
    The Glaziers have not put one penny into your club only taken out..this is the difference and no money to buy new players equals no continued success.
    You really think that if ( and I pray they dont ) sell Rooney that the owners will invest any of that money in the team?
    Look at how the money you got for Ronaldo was spent ...paying interest..without his sale Man U would not have made a book profit last year and that from a team three times champions in three years and two ECL finals !!

  • Comment number 51.

    What an incredibly biased and nieve article. Equity is the same as debt under a different name and to infer that the money sunk into United has any more of an expectation of a return than the millions pumped into, City, Chelsea etc is just plain ridiculous. Ask Mark Hughes about City's owners expectation of a return on their investment.

  • Comment number 52.

    I am sure someone will buy Manchester United, the brand alone is worth a lot, think once the Glaziers can't milk anymore out the club they will leave.

  • Comment number 53.

    Equity is the same as debt under a different name


  • Comment number 54.

    i agree with a few fans of what they have 2 say but evry1 seems to say city to the top well not even chelsea have reached the top we have dominated the premiership for nearly 2 decades ( and its only been around that long)..... so when city win over 20 trophies in same the period ferguson has been at the OT then people can talk about city being at the top.......even if city beat us 2day one final in 30 years we wer in more in one season

  • Comment number 55.

    Matt, I think this is a great article.

    I'm interested in the financing behind Man Utd, and so I found it an informative and interesting read. Yes, I have read other articles, etc on this topic, but so what?!

    I felt compelled to write something as, after reading the first few posts, I couldn't believe their stance. Someone said that the author of this article should stick to the football. Am I being a bit thick here, but aren't the too inextricably linked?! Football is a business. Fact! If you're only interested in the football side of things, fine. But surely you want to know what's going on at your club, and if this involves the financing options etc, and how it's going to affect the club then I'd personally want to know.

    If my club, Aston Villa, were in the financial situation Utd were in, I'd be reading every available source to find out what the score was, and the possible repercussions for the club. If the business aspect goes seriously pear-shaped, then this will undoubedtly cause "football-related" problems, i.e. player departures, etc. Look at Pompey. Big money problems = player exodus.

    I'm in no way saying that this is what's going to happen to United (I hope not), but I find it rather bewildering that some people don't want to concern themselves with what's going on at their club.


  • Comment number 56.


    The Glaziers may have lots of personal money ( which I doubt ) But a little accounting practise knowledge is needed here. Man U have had debts put onto them as a a company, if they cannot pay their debt they will go into administration..The Glaziers will not have to put a penny of their own money into the club as the debts are guarenteed by Man U ..its like you take out a mortgage and your home is the asset you put up to borrow the money..if you dont pay they take the house to recover their money. Its the same here..only a little more complicated..but the bottom line is that your club is being used to guarentee other debt..whch if they are not paid will result in those owed the money coming to Man U for the money,,which means selling the clubs assets ..chief assets of Man U ? the players.
    If the Glaziers have so much personal wealth, why is Man U lending millions to the Glazier boys? cant dad just give over his credit card?

    I agree with you but if you have a free market economy, the government cannot get is what attracts investment...but it also attracts sharks who see easy pickings.There are bodies to safeguard this..though they have small teeth and very tight rules on what they can and cannot do. The government can wring its hands and say that they dont like it..but there is not a whole lot they can do. If a company offers the shareholders loads of cash for their shares..the shareholders ( unfortunatly but not unexpectedly) are going to take the cash.I belive and I may be wrong here but if you can prove your money was obtained legally ( and borrowing is legal) you can do what you like.

    As to letting it crash and burn it may not be their decision if the cash cow stops producing - even bankers have their limits and no one is going to reinvest in Man U if the Glaziers come back for another bond issue.

  • Comment number 57.

    @42 To start with Alex is my name and has no reference to the Chelsea centre half.

    2nd I am 28 years old and have been a Chelsea fan for many years, long before the money arrived, suffering many years of mediocracy as i'm sure you can appreciate being a fan of a team deemed so mediocre that even an obscure Brazillian youngster doesnt want to join team as he see's you as too small.

    The main reasons why I hate City as unreasonable as it may seem is due to the Gallagher Brothers! Then to top it off City have added to this with the players (and i use this term very loosely, as the following are no more than over paid prima donnas) Adebayor - Over hyped, over rated and over paid! Robinho - A player that the great Pele said was glad to the back of from Santos! we most deffinately got a lucky break there! and then finally Craig Bellamy, I can give my views on this one with great confidence as I have known him personally, spent evenings in my local pub with his parents, personally put him in his place and have formed my opinion over years of knowledge - He is the biggest embarrasment to come out of Cardiff! A wannabe bad boy with a large ego, huge chip on his shoulder and an even bigger dose of small mans syndrome! All the talent and money in the world will not buy you class! and through the players that City have on board (and lets face it they are only there for the money, Robinho didnt even know who you were) and judging by their 2 most famous fans City have no class at all!

  • Comment number 58.

    The man is a sports reporter and write about whatever he feels like. Most of you are just upset that your beloved United i s being run into the ground. Sooner or later you'll be in the same division as Leeds (remember them?)- but it won't be in the Premier League.

  • Comment number 59.

    United fan since the early 1970's (Denis Law sending us to the 2nd division etc etc) and it truly pains me to see what is happening to my club.

    If your club are not in or near a similar position as us now, remember it could well be you one day very very soon...

    No matter what happens, I am just glad I had the best 40 years of watching the (sometimes) best team in the land with top players and the best manager in living memory (and I include Sir Matt Busby who once gave my great grandad a bottle of whiskey on his 100 birthday) and no one can take that away.. Barcelona 99, in your dreams, money doesn't buy it...

    United might go down but they will never die... what would you lot do without us?

  • Comment number 60.

    I fail to understand how some 'united' fans can simply ignore what is going on at their club?
    Being a united fan myself I find this interesting to read a summary of the situation which i have read bits about in the sun ( forgive me )

    Alex - Its nice to hear that especially from a Chelsea fan, but i guess if the once biggest/richest club in the world can fall..where does it put the others!?

    Anyway - I've still got my memorys of united - maybe not so many in the future...we'll see??

  • Comment number 61.

    Increasingly, I question whether American owners understand “football”.

    Major American sports, such as the NFL, Major League Baseball and the NBA, tend to be organized as “closed shops” – the organizing body grants franchises to the owners of teams to participate in the league.

    In granting franchises, American leagues try to ensure major metropolitan areas across the country are represented. The number of teams that can play in the league is limited. There is no promotion and relegation. Not only does this reduce risk and commercial uncertainty, it also limits sporting competition.

    It is against this background that salary caps and player drafts apply in American sport – limiting market forces to benefit owners of “franchises”.

  • Comment number 62.

    Oh how United Fans laughed when we (Chelsea) were trying to become financially sound.

    You have 700M debt, and all you have to show for it on the team sheet is.....


    I know Sheva was a flop, but hell.

  • Comment number 63.

    Out Glazers!!!

    Bring in Thasksin or any other 3rd world proven corrupt politician!! No one will protest that! ..Or find another Russian mafia billionaire!! Yeah! Hell even an Arab con artist claiming to have billions but can't even pay salaries, ...Anything,anyone but an American would be preferable!!

    No more Yanks!!!

    3 quick questions first:

    1. Where were M. U. before the Glazers came in?
    2. What have they accomplished since?
    3. Where are they now?

    1. Losing out to Chelsea and their $$$...
    2. 3 EPL titles on the trot and a Champions League trophy.
    3. Top of the League table.

    Who hath wrought this terrible plague upon me house..

  • Comment number 64.

    Pretty good reference to Man City. I consider that team to be a mix of half decent players and mercenaries. Tney claim that they are coming to the club to build it when they are really going for a huge paycheck. Tevez, Bellamy, Adebayor, Robinho, Santa Cruz. It is true that Tevez is having a good season but if he is the star player then everyone else should be classed mediocre?? SAF didnt want to pay that kind of money for him because he knows talent and the best players in the world have come from MUFC (Beckham, CR7, Van Nistelrooy..)Adebayor and Robinho left top clubs to come here for

    I want to see how far they reach if at the end of 3 years, they are still trophyless and the owners withdraw their investment, who will pay the big weekly salaries.......

  • Comment number 65.


    Thankyou for your explanation but I am a little more puzzled !

    So if City did not have the money (effectively off your radar!), had fans that DO NOT include the Gallagher borthers and finally have no Craig Bellamy... You would like us ?

    So do you like Stoke City ?

    Like I said before, Your reasons are not justifiable as a football fan who is talking about the football itself!

    I do not like Tim Lovejoy as a presenter on the BBC, but I would never say I dislike Chelsea because he supports them ! I respect Chelsea as a Top team in Europe but ultimately I dislike them as much as I dislike Utd as they are a TOP team and they normally beat us.

    Notice I have the respect for a TOP club but still dislike them

    Your comments seems a little bit "school ground" to me!

    Sorry !

    Or is it... You are finally off the hook with Chelsea no longer being branded the rcihest and thus accused of trying to buy the PL like City are!

    Please just admit you dislike City... Rather than bring ridiculous factors susch as the Galalgher brothers into it !!

  • Comment number 66.

    I'm a United fan too having followed them through thick and thin since 1968. Even if they end up in the lowest Sunday league in the country I will still take an interest in what's going on with them. But despite my loyalty to all things red football-wise I'm still mightily concerned over what's happening at OT right now. While there might not be an immediate implosion on the horizon I do fear a steady and slow decline into relative obscurity. Of course other club's fans will be dancing with glee at that prospect but then who will they hate after that? For example, while I respectfully dislike Man Sh*tty, Loserpool, Chelscum and Arsenil, I also relish the thought of Utd thrashing them on a regular basis. Sorry to all the other 'lesser' clubs but winning (or even losing) against Luton, Accrington Stanley, Hull, Barnet, et al just won't have the same gloss I'm afraid. So let's all hope the Glazers are a success because the alternative doesn't bear thinking about.

  • Comment number 67.

    You could trace it back to Munich 1958.

    If a crash like that happened today, the club would be protected by insurance. In 1958, it made the club vulnerable to a takeover by Louis Edwards, a corrupt Manchester businessman -

    Before the Munich disaster, Manchester United were on the verge of becoming the dominant force in English football. 2 more league titles and the European Cup in the 1960s was actually a poor return on the promise pre-Munich.

    Martin Edwards succeeded his father in 1980 -

    It is clear that all he ever really wanted to do was to sell his shares for as high a price as he could get - not just to BSkyB but to Robert Maxwell and Michael Knighton before that -

    In the end, he settled for a public listing, which enabled him to sell off his shares over time, but made the club vulnerable in the longer term to a wider range of potential takeovers.

    More importantly, the Munich disaster engendered a global brand loyalty which survived, and enabled the club to be run profitably despite, 25 years without a title or European success (1968 to 1993).

    Keeping the club debt free and cash rich made it more attractive to anyone looking to take over the club. Like a carnivorous predator drawn to a fleshy herbivore.

    Since 1993, the club has attracted a whole new breed of supporter worldwide, which the Glazers assume will provide them with sufficient revenues over time to pay off the debt and return the club to profitability. However, the new breed of supporter is hardly likely to show much patience if the flow of trophies dries up.

    "... Mr Currie added ... that in emerging markets fans may swap allegiance, from - for example - Manchester United to Real Madrid, simply because they preferred to support star players rather than clubs." -

    In hindsight, there is something almost inevitable about the present situation.

  • Comment number 68.

    Oh dear. Another BBC article trying to exaggerate how bad manchester uniteds future is. What i want to know is what do the BBC have against the reds? Its no wonder fergie refuses to speak to them.

    Yes we know we are in debt so thankyou for trying to point that out as if no one knows. The fact of the matter is even if we don't have the finances to buy world class players that is not what we've ever been about. We have some fantastic young players coming through the ranks so even if we were to buy no one else i wouldn't be overly worried. Clearly united fans are concerned but does this article really do any good?

    We will ALWAYS be bigger than city.

  • Comment number 69.

    Oh dear. Another BBC article trying to exaggerate how bad manchester uniteds future is. What i want to know is what do the BBC have against the reds? Its no wonder fergie refuses to speak to them.
    Can you provide an example of the exaggeration you speak of?

  • Comment number 70.

    @Matt Slater

    Firstly on Chris Smalling. Your assumption is that we have bought him to replace Vidic. The Vidic rumours have been going on for the best part of two and a half years - I wonder if the wife has settled in yet? I mean for that long Vidic was leaving because the wife needed a sun tan - and now apparently his head has been turned - so I guess the wife doesn't want to go now? Amuse me further - I pity you so called journalists - you know SAF tells you what you need to know which is little as possible but because it's United news you fire off as you see wish - mind you wouldn't expect nothing less.

    If he walks he walks - but for you to imply such misinformation is again sensationalism on your behalf. Deny it as you so choose to wish.

    Of course I cannot deny your piece on the Glazer's; all be it that you again write it in a way which is purely depressing for United fans. However again despite you being connected to city mates - you cannot tell us what we already don't know. You just make it all the more worse by throwing icing on the already sour cake.

    It is quite funny and at times tragic that United are being made to look so helpless in the face of what the Glazer's have done to us. It is also more tragic that commentators like yourselves do not take the whole process of buying such an institution into account - why don't you ridicule the people that allow owners like the Glazer's, the Hicks and the Gillette's, the Faraj's of this world to take over clubs that have such a long standing in world football?

    Of course you wouldn't be doing your job if you got at the people in power that have let United and Liverpool specifically be dragged down like this. It is disgusting and immoral - and finally both sets of supporters have something to share between - get rid of the owner's.

    We are not stuck with them - if the collective United family of supporters - likewise Liverpool fans/Portsmouth fans etc - got together and forgot about any financial gain or reward - then we could buy our clubs and hand it back to where they belong. Now that is a challenge true fans have to begin to wake to.

    On a parting shot on my behalf you write that United and City have still a gulf between them but Arab money is filling it.

    That comment alone shows you that you have no idea what you are talking about. If you assume that money can fill any void in football then your argument about the Glazer's holds no water - they are only doing this to make as much money as they possibly can - do you agree with that too? Because you are blind to the fact that the Sheiks have over inflated an average club's worth and that they wipe the debt off by putting it into a new company that is apparently absorbing the debt accordingly.

    You don't argue what would happen if they began to do what the Glazer's have done - and you don't argue if they decide to sell up how dangerous that would be for our neighbours.

    Shame you can't balance an argument.

  • Comment number 71.

    Really enjoyed reading this article. I do not believe that the Glazers should be the only ones held accountable. The men that sold these clubs to the Americans are as much to blame as the Americans. The Liverpool board was aware of how the Americans intended to finance the takeover of the club ans yet decided to go with their bid rather than the more considered bid from the Dubai Corporation.

    The United board was aware of how the Glazer's wished to fund the purchase of the club and the debts they looked to wrack up against the club yet personal greed made them push forward with the purchase. The situation Liverpool and Man Utd find themselves in is due to the greed of previous owners.

  • Comment number 72.

    # 68

    I remember the Kop end chanting similar to Utd fans in the past ;-)

    Whilst I beleive City will close the gap to you, Utd still are the best team in the PL and are in the top 3 in World football (Barcelona and Inter Milan I beleive are slightly above at present, based on this season)

    I cannot see City overtaking Utd anytime soon despite the Billions. Perhaps that is the City fan (well this one anyway!) feelings as we are still a small club trying to crack the BIG TIME. We have yet to even play Champions League football let alone win a major competition.

    Money is not the all winning formula. Look at Real Madrid ! Even closer to home...

    Chelski have not become the most dominant team on a consistant basis in the PL and their team is dying of old age (except for Super Daniel Sturridge and he was a cheap sigining!).

    More beleiveable to me. I can see us overtaking Chelsea to 2nd (long term) but Utd are still the team to beat. Most football fans amongst us still fear OT more than the Bridge (not that Wayne is scary but.. oh yeah Stamford Bridge!)


    I cannot beleive I am being nice to Utd, but with respect brings the reality of the truth !

  • Comment number 73.

    Increasingly, I question whether American owners understand “football”.

    Football as a sport? No, heck Americans who own American Football teams of NFL variety don't understand the game all that well. Do they understand the business of football? Oh yes, all too well my friend, all too well. They (Glazers) came, they took Man U, they squeezed millions out, they with clever accounting (consulting fee to themselves) in all transferred their debt to the club, and they can walk away! I'd say they understand it very well. There is a sucker in this, but it ain't them.

  • Comment number 74.

    We will still follow Manchester United long after these yank leeches stop sucking the life out of our club. We'll burn a bonfire the day Malcolm Galzer dies.

    Love United Hate Glazer

  • Comment number 75.

    Haha! Its funny because its United :D

  • Comment number 76.


    This is an article about Man United's debt and a commentary on recent news with soem jounrlaistic licence.

    THIS IS NOT SOME COURT OF LAW WHERE MAN U IS ON TRIAL for Mr. Slater to act like some judge and take into account of every detail, prove everything by evidence, prove that he is not bias by presenting the situations and going ons at other clubs, and prove ......
    Calm down. Situation is bad (may be not as bad), and Slater is stating just that. DOn't take it personaly.

  • Comment number 77.

    This was a very good blog, I enjoyed it Mr Slater. A word of comfort to all us Red Devils is necessary though; even if it all goes t*ts up with the Glaziers, as certain as City will never become the greatest football club of all, Manchester United will be snapped up by a billionaire who'll make sure United marches on!!!!

  • Comment number 78.


    As a UTD supporter for over 35 years I have never agreed with an Arsenal fan, I suppose there's a first time for everything, but I agree with your analysis 100%.

  • Comment number 79.

    @ U11148453 76

    I'm not taking it personally - Mr. Slater is only one in a long line of journalists who have been talking about the same thing over and over again. What is funny is if these journalists have each other's numbers to see who can write about United in a whole new way - something again he's trying to do above.

    What is funnier still is that the average fan with any knowledge of football would have known that when United signed Smalling from Fulham - that the Vidic story would have come alive and kicking agin - low and behold that's exactly what happened today.

    But what is not funny is that he alongside his peers and colleagues continue to not find the truth in this matter. It is true that United fans will have to take it on the chin - but I'll remind anyone that when we win we are news and hated - when we loose we are still news and hated further. And now we have a little word thrown debt into the mix - just for the sake of a spice up.

    Finally if only reporters would be a little bit more open to the comment I made about what City's owners are doing as written above - the same comment goes to Chelsea fans although I don't know for sure how RA wiped his debt off - I'm sure I heard bonds - they could be kind enough to fill me in.

    Debt is debt - whether that may be through loans or through bonds - or even when it is put onto another company's books.

    As fans it's time to wake up - as for journalists they should go back to actually finding the truth and reporting it - and at the same time making it hard for these people who are getting away with it.

  • Comment number 80.

    If my point was taken out of context then people have taken missed the point entirely. I have pretty much read every article the telegraph, guardian and FT articles and the bbc have published on this subject. This is because I care about what is going on at my club.

    What I take issue with are articles that rehash pretty much what I have been reading for the last two/three weeks. Give me something new. A different slant, commentary from the Glazers as to their future plans etc. I don't need to be reminded that we are 716million pounds in debt. I know that already.

  • Comment number 81.

    Tick tock tick tock.


    The clock is ticking.

  • Comment number 82.

    The financial troubles at Manchester United, Liverpool, Portsmouth, Crystal Palace, Chester .... should I go on? ....are all down to greed.

    There is greed of the players (nobody is worth £10,000per week never mind £100,000pw), Agents, Chief Executives, Owners (not all). If they just stood back a moment and accepted a decent salary for what they do (not exactly hard work is it) then any TV rights and sponsorship could be used to develop the Club from bottom to top.

    Transfer fees are at obscene levels, what kind of house could you buy for a £1M never mind several million for average players who work part-time. Yes Clubs are now run as busineses, but no business would survive the kind of debt levels and incompetant risk management that we have seen over the past few years. Sad to say but it may take a major club to go "bust" to wake up those in authority and running the professional game in this country. Sad because football clubs (used to) belong to the fans who work hard all week to spend travelling and watching their team, despite some of the football skills being below that of lower leagues.

    We are waiting for a WAKE UP call!!!

  • Comment number 83.

    A good read. Some fans are unfortunately still preferring to bury their heads in the sand and ignore what's going on in favour of making boastful outbursts, but you get that with any sports blog anyway.

    Most people are rightfully interested in how their club is being run.

  • Comment number 84.

    Unlike Matt Slater and, I would guess, the Guardian's David Conn I have read the bond prospectus - it's not particularly dispiriting. (It's important to remember that most of the "bad news" has been fed to journalists by a hate filled ex-director who also happens to have a senior position with one of the lead underwriter's fiercest competitors.) As a document, the prospectus is actually pretty run-of-the-mill. The "risk factors" section is rather mild compared to many you would have seen if you had any experience of reading prospectuses (we used to joke that the only risk not included was meteorites strikes - and some of the risks got pretty close to that).

    This doesn't mean everything is rosy, but given the economic climate since the buyout, the business is in a fairly sound position. Of course the difficulties the Glazers had in refinancing after the transaction created unforeseen problems - for me the amazing thing is that these difficulties have had almost no impact on the business. (I'm sure I'll be attacked by those who believe that SAF has been lying about the reasons for the relative lack of transfer activity in the summer. I just don't see anything in the financials that would lead me to doubt him.)

    Are there real risks? Of course. Should we be spending every waking moment agonising about them? I don't think so. The business is a strong cash flow generator with an excellent underlying asset base. It's situation is very different from, for example, Leeds who never had the cash flow base to support their expenditures. The best analogy I can think of is to compare United's debt to a mortgage and Leeds' to the excessive build up of credit card debt with insufficient income to support it. We don't run around screaming that everyone with a mortgage is going broke, but we do recognise that excessive credit card debt almost always leads to problems. (Mortgages become a problem when the homeowner suffers a substantial reduction in income - the same could happen to United - the risk discussion should centre around how likely this is.)

  • Comment number 85.

    Man Utd fans have nothing to complain about. The roof has not fallen off at Old Trafford.

    I would disagree with comments which suggest the Glazers have no interest in the club. Even hard headed businessmen have to show some 'love' for the businesses they buy.

    Man Utd knew (as did Cadburys) what they were getting into the day they created a PLC. Of course, no one ever complains about the British buying companies in the USA.

    Man Utd have always been a big club. This idea that they built with no money is a joke. They have always earned more than the smaller clubs. Man Utd earn more from DVD sales than many clubs make in ticket sales (and that was before the Glazers arrived.)

    Someone suggested the supporters buy the club. Even if you raised the money you will, like the Glazers, have to spend £30m+ on consultants to help you mange the money.

    The Glazers have not stripped out the silver yet.
    The club had a small loss in 2008 which was easily paid out of the money made on Ronaldo.

    This year I suspect that Rooney wil be sold and pay of any shortfall.
    He is the best player in the Premiership by a mile.

    After the World Cup don't be surprised to see a club from Spain knocking on your door.

  • Comment number 86.

    Oh dear Man U...looks like things aren't going so swimmingly after all. I'm looking forward to some other teams being able to exert financial muscle over them. The Glazer's predicament shows that no matter how much talking is done off the pitch, the talking off it needs to be just as good.

  • Comment number 87.


    sorry I meant 'on' instead of 'off'

  • Comment number 88.

    As for other fans disliking Man Utd.
    Part of that comes form the bad rule in the Prem
    which has allowed the big clubs keep all the gate receipts.

    When Fulham, Burnley, West Ham and the rest play at Old Trafford they receive no payment from Man Utd.
    It seems unfair as they are providing half the entertainment.

    In the FA Cup clubs have to share the gate receipts.


  • Comment number 89.

    firstly. My comment at number five was not a case of me burying my head in the sand. I was merely pointing at the fact that clubs go through periods of success which are usually followed by a lull. History shows us as much. I agreed with the comments before me as they were stating that no matter what, you always stuck by your club. The fact that a bunch of yobo yanks are ruining our club is extremely disturbing and heartbreaking but shouting "Glazers out" from the terrraces is only going to give you a sore throat. I can sit here in my bubble praying for a sugar daddy to come rescue my club but is it really going to happen? Unlikely.

    I read these blogs because I want to understand what is going on with my club but i'm not seeing any light at the end of the tunnel just yet. So concentrating on "the football" is a good means for fogging over the impending doom.

    Thank you

  • Comment number 90.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 91.

    In some ways whilst the SKY Money etc has been good for the game, it has also been very bad for the game. Clubs no longer have to generate their own incomes and cut their cloth accordingly, there is this magical £50 million a year for being in the premier league. Of course then you have to pay your players xxx thousands of pounds a week or more, just so that they don't go anywhere else (United reportedly going to pay Rooney more than 150,000 a week to stop him going to spain). The wage bills are running ahead of the Sky money and it just can't carry on and we have to get several premier league clubs go bust before everyone comes to their senses. It's not Sky's fault and it's not Wayne Rooney's fault, it is just the huge one armed bandit that football has become. Historical city institutions like Portsmouth, Crystal Palace and perhaps Man Utd and many others beloved by their fans are at risk because they simply
    cannot get off the merry go round whilst it is going so fast. Bring back some sort of sensible salary cap, no, not the old £20 a week but some sort of cap would help the game.

  • Comment number 92.

    I think you should stick to writing about the Olympics or include financial reporting as part of your blog.As a United fan,i am worried about the finances of the Club and company,but not overtly so.
    As for all the negatives coming from different writers and bloggers,it is expected for a team as big and successsful as United.However,i do not think the owners would go out of their way to kill their own investment.
    That is not however to say it can not happen.I would definitely feel better knowing the club is in the green and not the red.

  • Comment number 93.

    Hey ravelston,

    I'm just wandering off to the match (fingers crossed). In the meantime, it wasn't "a bitter former director" at a syndicate bank who leaked the document - who could that be?

    It was me. You can read all about why you are wrong to say the prospectus is not a worry for supporters at:

    Email me if you need more info....


  • Comment number 94.

    'Bundled out of the FA Cup by old foes from across the Pennines, beaten in the Carling Cup by uppity neighbours and subjected to "where did it all go wrong?" analysis in the nation's sports pages, it has been a bleak midwinter for Sir Alex Ferguson and his men.'

    Hmmm, it appears United are on par with Arsenal for exaggerated, over-the-top journalism. The bigger they are..........

  • Comment number 95.

    Matt, I know its part of a blog writer's job to insert some such comments that will Incite ( may be too strong !! ) Encourage, readers to respond with hightened degree of passion and feeling ,especially when it s a matter of football club loyality ,And what timing !!! ( on the eve of an all important derby game )

    " So, sorry, you're stuck with the Glazers. They've gone to the well again and drawn another £504m in IOUs.
    It gets worse. Those experts didn't give you an unequivocal thumbs-up. They looked at the numbers, winced like car mechanics and said 'yeah, we can fix that, but it will cost you'. And I mean you - the tangible fans at Old Trafford and the intangible fans in Bangalore and beyond ".

    The above lines from your blog would suggest to me that you have written this as a taunt to MAN United fans and not as a balanced unbias general article.
    If it is so, then may be I need to tell you that we are very aware of our club's finances and do not need someone who is an expert on Olympics ( ?? ) to tell us about football.

    Could you please explain what exactly you mean by " Intangble fans in Bangalore ".
    The Man U fans in " Bangalore and Beyond " are much more enlightented than some bloggers sitting in offices in White City/Bush House.
    Is there a chance that you might have come accross a word called " GLOBALISATION " . The Internet- without which you and I and billions of others cannot survive today was developed by CISCO Systems Fibre Optics Cabelling in Bangalore.
    Get your prospective right Matt.

  • Comment number 96.

    This makes truly wonderful reading!

    When the Glazers took over and the figures were made public, even a simpleton like me worked out they must be paying somewhere in the region of £50m a year in interest and thats before you start on the capital, it also means you have to borrow even more to buy players, no Utd fans I know could see it, "oh your just a bitter blue etc" but it was there for everyone to see, the news of the £150m borrowed from Hedge Funds and astronomical interest rates is the icing on the cake.

    Keep up the good work Glazers.

  • Comment number 97.

    In view of all these debts why have Manchester United not gone into administration?

  • Comment number 98.

    Let's hope they can afford the fine they'll receive for their 'fans' showering bottles and coins down upon an already-stricken opposition player.

    Derr, what am I saying? It's Manchester Utd, so the fine will be £2.50.

  • Comment number 99.


    I'm familiar with your blog - you are actually why I was inspired to take a closer look - I just disagree with some of your conclusions. I also don't doubt your role in leaking the document - I was referring to the string of negative statements immediately before and after the pricing. (I'm sure we both know who was responsible, and why he is hardly an unbiased commentator.)

    I think that the major difference between us is that I'm looking at the buyout and subsequent events as a business transaction rather than the rape of a beloved friend. I appreciate your perspective, but, realistically, once the Edwards family sold United on the public market, this scenario was always possible/likely. Rather than cry over that particular spilled milk I'm more interested in how United are going to function under the current circumstances. None of the "shocking revelations" in the prospectus is particularly out of line with what you would expect in the aftermath of a buyout. Some (but obviously not all) of the most criticised elements are simply about making tax-efficient transfers - effectively dividends that are deductible for the purposes of calculating tax. (The tax efficiency of the Glazers' management is very impressive.)

    Finally, I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't worry - just that we should know what we are worrying about. My belief is that factors that threaten the continued strong cash flow generated by United are the main source of concern - make of that what you will. (Incidentally, it's worth remarking that the interests of the Glazers are very much aligned with those of the fans when it comes to United's success - a successful United is a much more valuable asset.)

  • Comment number 100.

    Evening all, thanks for reading and apologies for not replying earlier. I meant to dip in this afternoon but childcare duties did me in. As it's half-time of the big game (beautifully poised, isn't it?) I'll be as brief as possible, make a few general points and perhaps come back tomorrow morning to say a bit more.

    First up, in response to those who asked about my blog profile and "Olympic expert" status, what can I say? I follow my muse. And can you blame me? Nearly 100 comments for a blog that doesn't even get a slot on the website's front page (ahem). That said, I have been meaning to ask about getting changed (apparently it's a right pain) as I've been a general sports news reporter for nearly a year now....and football's voodoo economics, to those who wondered, is probably the biggest sports news story of the year (give or take an exclusive interview with Tiger Woods).

    Second, I too pine for the days when football (sport in general, really) was just football. But when were those days? 1880s?? The sad fact is that pro football and big business have been entwined for decades. What's happened in last few years, though, is the scale/nature of this relationship. The advent of the Premier League is clearly crucial to this, particularly as it coincided with a TV revolution. Throw globalisation into the mix and you're starting to explain how we've got to a situation where "the EPL" is fast approaching the NFL as the world's most lucrative sports league and one of this country's most successful exports, and yet £3bn in debt and dominated by foreigners on and off the pitch.

    Third, for my sins, I read the prospectus in half a day about two and a half weeks ago. I got mine off the back of a lorry (and not from one of my City mates or any disaffected MU plc directors). I also pretty much analysed it myself. Wasn't easy and I did get some help (from my City mates...growing up in Essex has its benefits) but I used to be a financial journalist many years ago. Didn't completely understand it all back then, either, but I got by.

    Fourth, yep, blogs are supposed to stir things up a bit, and my Smalling for Vidic comment was only semi-serious. But I think some might have missed my main point about the extent of United's "decline". I thought I made it clear that I didn't necessarily agree with much of what has been written/said about the club's prospects in recent weeks. I think too much of it has been far too black and white, whereas the reality is very grey, if you catch my drift. Journalists do tend to simplify complicated issues only to exaggerate their possible consequences. We all do it, I'm just trying to acknowledge it here and explain why the situation is a lot more fluid.

    And finally (United have just scored their second), my reference to the "intangible" fans in Bangalore and beyond is really pretty straightforward. United, along with every other PL club, is still reliant on their traditional support. United, in fact, are in a minority of clubs in the PL that actually make more money from ticket sales/matchday revenues than they do from TV, which is the second biggest revenue stream. The biggest part of that still comes from Sky/BBC, so again UK fans. And the third revenue stream is "commercial" ie the Nike shirt deal, AIG/AON etc. Now, the Asian fan is the great white whale/Northwest Passage of the PL business model, it's why the Americans buy English clubs and it's the carrot English clubs wave at prospective investors. They talk endlessly about how global they all are, and frequently quote massive levels of support in Asia, but nobody has worked out how to actually make money from them. Not proper money, anyway. The overseas TV deals are going up but the pre-season tour seems to be the most lucrative solution at the moment (39th game anyone?!?). Shirt sales are very problematic because counterfeiting is rife and they don't need many hats and scarves in Singapore. The other problem was highlighted by Beckham's departure. Many of United's Asian fans simply transfered their allegiance to Real. It was Beckham they liked. AC are presumably selling a lot more (fake) shirts in the Far East now too. I initially wrote 'monetised/unmonetised' but thought that was far too business-speak so changed it to tangible/intangible. Oh, and I chose Bangalore for the very reasons you flagged up. It is a developed, globalised, media-savvy kind of place. Exactly the kind of city that would have a Manchester United-themed bar.

    Enjoy the rest of the's heading for extra time at the mo!


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