Manchester United has been put up for sale after the club’s owners, the Glazer family, announced that they were “commencing a process to explore strategic alternatives”.
The development could mean the end of the Glazers’ 17-year ownership of the club, a controversial era for many fans.
Here, seven supporters share their reaction to the news as well as their hopes – and concerns – for the club’s future.
‘I want a fan-owned club’
“At last. The Glazers have been like the guests that didn’t want to leave, coming in empty-handed, using what was there before their arrival, feeding and drinking themselves with no regard for anyone else, least of all the fans and the club itself. The only thing the Glazers did positively was to grow the commercial revenue of the club. However, this was at the expense of the sporting side and could never continue endlessly.
“The biggest concern is with the identity of the next owner. It wouldn’t be good to go from the frying pan into the fire – as might happen if a morally suspect individual bought the club, or a hedge fund just looking for a quick payday.”
“There may only be one possible way to avoid ending up being sold to a worse owner and that is [for] all of the fans – not some but all – to pledge to put in 10 quid each as their contribution for keeping the club in the right hands. I’m ready to put in my money to save the club falling into the wrong hands.”
Peter Ng, 65, retired in Melbourne, Australia
‘There’s been a sad malaise over the last few years’
“I’ve been a season ticket holder for 20 years and met my partner at Old Trafford. I didn’t think the Glazers’ ownership was that bad at first, [though] people were worried. But in recent years it feels [as if] they’ve taken the eye off the ball and we’re dropping behind everyone else.
“[My concerns] are that they’ve taken money out of the club, which others aren’t doing. We haven’t been able to compete in recent years. The grounds are getting quite old – I still love Old Trafford but it’s not as up to date as a lot of our competitors. I’ve only seen them on TV, but [have seen] Tottenham’s stadium and others are talking about spending a lot more money – we’re lagging behind and need a boost.
“The news is quite exciting and I’m looking forward to the future of the club. There’s been a sad malaise over the last few years; anything to improve that would be great, and bring the status back to where it should be. We’ve felt like an also-ran for the last few years, but it’s a million miles away to get us back on track.”
Victoria Clarke, 50, semi-retired business owner, Buxton
‘I’d rather be bottom of League 2 than be Manchester City’
“This is the news we’ve been waiting for since 2005. At that time, I owned 11 shares in the club, worth about £20, but priceless to me. The club was debt-free, self-sufficient, had a stadium that was the envy of much of the football world (all self-financed), had a brand new training complex (self-financed), and had enjoyed a spell of almost unmatched football success.
“I was forced to sell my shares to these people, who had no interest in football, had no business plan, who were not putting any of their own money into the club, and who were going to load almost $700m of debt on to our club. In the 17 years since, the Glazers have run this great club into the ground.
“[My concerns are that] the club is sold under another leveraged purchase, and as the price will be higher than the current debt, we end up with a worse problem than we have now. [Also, that] we get taken over by an oil state, with dubious business processes, horrible human rights record, and appalling attitudes to women, homosexuality, and many other issues. I’d rather be bottom of League 2 than be Manchester City.”
Greg Whitaker, 50, software manager in Manchester
‘I hope the new ownership wants the best for the club’
“I will be jubilant to see them go. I do, though, need to caution that we do not know what lies on the other side. My one straw to grasp at regarding the Glazers has been that at least United is not being using for sportswashing. What if the club is bought by someone in the mood of Newcastle’s owners – is that really any better? Or we just end up with another set of American corporate raiders and we are back to square one?
“I hope new ownership comes in that truly want the best for the club. It should be possible to run this football club with a profit without using it for sportswashing or paying yourself massive dividends or paying off huge interest payments.”
Erik Dahlberg, 32, working in investment management in Oslo, Norway
‘I feel conflicted about our identity as a club’
“I feel conflicted about our identity as a club and the way ahead. I feel the need for MUFC to remain tactically competent on the pitch while also witnessing state wealth-funded clubs creating a financial imbalance so huge that sporting equity is on the verge of being irreversibly compromised.
“I [recognise potential] harms of the ownership being passed onto a possible sovereign state with questionable human rights records and [would] definitely resist a wealthy sovereign state using United as a front for sportswashing. If only the British government realised that football clubs are more than just a registered entity and are a part of the wider community with multiple stakeholders, including its people.”
Arpit, 29, lawyer in Mumbai, India
‘I hope to return to Old Trafford’
“I was a season ticket holder for five years. I stopped going to games a few years ago because I didn’t want to directly give the Glazers a penny of my money. That the football was awful made the decision easier. I still watch every game on TV, but it’s not the same and I’d like to go back to Old Trafford.
“I hope they find a buyer that is a United fan, or they give fans a real voice. The stadium and training ground need investment, too. It’s not been developed since 2005 and what was the best stadium in England at that time has now been surpassed by our rivals. It’s got a leaky roof and faded and jaded appearance that echoes the fortunes of the team. The training ground has also not been developed properly in years, the women’s team have had to change in [portable cabins] and their gym is just a big marquee.”
Ryan, 30, product manager in San Sebastián, Spain
‘I want some assurances over the club’s future’
“I would really like for us to have a future where it’s clear what we’re going to do. I’d like to have more certainty of who we’re going for in transfer windows and what they’ll bring, and a feeling that the manager wants that player.
“The Glazers haven’t invested in the right areas. They should be able to see that some players don’t fit and should go for players determined to give their best for the club. It would be a lie to say they haven’t put money in the club – whether it’s used right is a different question. If you’re not competent enough to make those huge decisions for fans around the world … you need to up your game.
“I love the club from afar – I’ve accepted we’re not going to win every game but sometimes it’s an institutional problem. You want some assurances over the future.”
Kupakwashe Makoni, 26, freelance writer in Zimbabwe