Man United can't afford to be fussy as Qatar make their move

IAN LADYMAN: As Qataris move for Man United, they can’t afford to be fussy in dash for cash, a new stadium and stars. Fans need a Glazers get-out – and Newcastle and City didn’t take a moral stance

  • Manchester United are set to receive a massive offer from Qatari investors
  • The Red Devils need money to invest in a new stadium and compete on the pitch
  • Fans are unlikely to take a moral stance over the potential new ownership

Back in 2005 when it became clear that Malcom Glazer’s interest in buying Manchester United was not some kind of bad dream there was briefly some focus and concern on how well or otherwise the American treated workers at the fish oil factories that at the time formed a significant part of the family business. As the Glazers now ready themselves for an opportunity to sell United to Qatar investors for £6bn, that all feels rather quaint.

Things were different in 2005. Manchester City were still owned largely by John Wardle, a local businessman. Newcastle were under the control of Freddy Shepherd, a Geordie. Chelsea were the outliers, a little under two years in to the ownership of Roman Abramovich. English football was about to change. It was already changing. But not everybody could see it.

Almost two decades on, United and their supporters doubtless feel differently to how they felt back in 2005 when the racing magnates JP McManus and John Magnier’s decision to sell their shares in United to the Glazers plunged England’s biggest football club in to turmoil, debt and moral crisis.

Back then, United’s fanbase were rightly suspicious of the Glazers’ motives but also their reputation as business sharks in America. Everywhere you looked in 2005, everyone you talked to about the Glazers, the same answers came back and none of them were good.

Now? United cannot afford to be so fussy. So vast is the Premier League landscape these days – so astonishingly rich are our game’s top football clubs – that the dash for cash has become of paramount importance. Running your club well, turning over good profits and investing it judiciously on players – the way United used to in the days before the Glazers put a hole in all of that – is no longer enough if you wish to win the Premier League or compete in the Champions League.

Qatari investors are planning an incredible mega-money swoop for Manchester United

Manchester United fans have been desperate for the Glazer family to sell the club

United’s owners Joel (L) and Avram (R) Glazer are seeking north of £6bn to sell the club 

Occasionally, it can done. A perfect storm of an exceptional manager and two or three years of incredibly clever buying and selling can take a club to the top. Liverpool have shown us that.

But in the long-term in the Premier League and Europe, cash will rule. United look at the Premier League now and see American money bank rolling a Chelsea transfer splurge exceeding £500m Since last summer and cash from the middle east pushing City (whatever the Premier League’s investigation eventually brings us) and Newcastle forwards.

Which brings us to Qatar. We have talked a lot about Qatar over the last year or so. Now that its World Cup has been and gone, it was always likely to push for a little more of what the biggest football tournament on the planet gave it. Exposure, relevance, glamour, money.

We are told it is not the Qatari state that wishes to take United off the hands of the Glazers, rather it is individual investors. But Qatar still brings with it the usual miserable human rights connotations. It will never shake that off, not until the day it decides to genuinely change its draconian outlook on the way its citizens and visitors are allowed to live and work.

But what are United and its supporters supposed to do? Take a moral stance that nobody on the blue half of Manchester ever did? That nobody in Newcastle has taken? That nobody in Chelsea ever did even though we all knew where Abramovich’s money was really coming from?

Manchester United need money to build a new stadium and invest in the training ground

New ownership is requried to help Erik ten Hag’s side remain competitive on the pitch

Newcastle fans largely embraced a Saudi Arabian consortium’s takeover of their club 

United, for all their improvement under Erik Ten Hag, need a new stadium. They need new players. They need investment in the training ground at Carrington.

In short, United need money. They need to be rid of the dead weight on the shoulders that has been the Glazers for so long. If that cash ends up coming from Qatar, United will merely find themselves part of an ever-expanding cartel. It all feels a bit grim but it has done for so long now. The Premier League is no longer an English football competition. It is an elite football competition that happens to be played in England. Much of the values we once held, we have allowed to slip away. United were standard bearers on and off the field for a long time but that standing has been worn away by land grabs made by their rivals on the back of billions of pounds of foreign money.

This is where we are. This is what we have become. If Qatar offers United a way out the Glazer stranglehold, it’s hard to imagine many of their supporters lying awake at night worrying about the rights or wrongs of it. 

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