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 Red11 REDitorial

Published: 14 SEPT 2005

by John Ryan

So Malcolm (and sons), four months into your quest for world soccerball domination, how is everything going?

I'm bored and my mind has inevitably wandered to Manchester United football club and as you are now our owner(s) you became part of my thoughts. For me, a fan looking in from the outside, it really is hard to gauge exactly what has gone on since you joined. You see many of those involved in the supporters groups have predicted that you will rape & pillage our club in an effort to squeeze every last all conquering dollar out of the club - i.e. people like me. It's amazing you are doing this though. My Grandfather is 82, just 5 years older than you. What concerns him are things like his family's well being, making sure he has enough bread & milk, and of course his daily smokes. He worked in Britain for a long time and I think he saw United play once or twice. He's not a fan but he is an admirer and he was in Britain when the awful tragedy of the Munich air crash took place. Like a lot of his generation he probably wanted United to win because of that event. Don't get me wrong, I know you want us to win too but I doubt the reason is to keep that passion within our club going, but moreso to amass greater wealth than you currently have.

I haven't had a lot of time to get to know you and having never met you I cannot speak for your personal manner or the fact that you might be charming and well spoken. I first became aware of you in early 2003 when I was working in the US & rumours of you taking over our club had surfaced. As I worked in an American office, inevitably football (or soccer as you might term it) was down the locals list of sporting priorities. The Chicago Bears were the team most of them followed, however my work colleagues were tremendously helpful with one even going so far as to record games for me & drive right over to my appartment and NOT tell me the result before handing me the cassette. Few of your countrymen had any interest in Manchester United, but those who did wanted to know the format of the competitions we play, our history and none asked how much we were worth. Now that to me was a little strange. Sport in the US in my eyes was 20 years ahead of sport in Europe in terms of exploiting the financial aspect of the game. But with the Premiership & Champions League both landing on our doorstep at roughly the same time, we have caught up in this part of the world.  inevitably with us catching up, greedy eyes were cast upon our club and within a short time the club with the highest turnover in world sport and the club making the biggest profit was given a £540M concrete block around its neck.

I wonder at what point you became aware of Manchester United and under what circumstances? For me it was a game V's Liverpool in 1981. United could have been a junior side for all I knew but they stuck with me ever since. Ask any Manchester United fan and you will get a similar answer. It could be that they are from Manchester, or it could be the Munich air disaster or it could be that they are older & thought the team of Best, Law & Charlton was simply breathtaking. But all the reasons that these genuine people will churn out have one common denominator: football. You see that is where I feel you and your sons made the biggest mistake. You showed your attraction to the money side of things first and then put on a public façade trying to appears as genuine fans e.g. your sons going into the dressing room after the Debrecen home game. Now I felt a little sorry for the boys that night as things can get a little confusing at times. If Van Nistelrooy scores, the crowd is not booing, they are chanting "Ruud".  We do also sing "if you all hate Scousers" knowing Wayne Rooney is one, but your boys probably are lost as to what a scouser is and of course (and I've no proof of this) they were probably wondering why the crowd disappeared at the end of the second quarter.

It could have all been so different. If only you had put your efforts into becoming a fan earlier on. It is not that difficult, I could pass you on a list of American nationals who follow Manchester United & really know their stuff. For maybe, say, $100 each they would have wrote you an essay that would have been far more of an education than the millions you are going to pay in fees to banks who helped you buy our club. The difference between those Americans who are fans, and you is that they do not care about the clubs worth. They, like me are waiting with baited breath on a Saturday/Sunday to see how we fared in our latest league game. It's simple really - if we win, the feelgood factor is great, but dropping points leads to inevitable debate over a few pints on a Saturday night. Maybe another idea might have been if you had worn a disguise and got a ticket for the Stretford end of a big game like Liverpool. It might sound like a tough deal tough to try to fit in, but if you got rid of the popcorn & single bottle of bud and sang like a lunatic, jumping out of your seat to howl at the referee for giving a Scouse free, you might have achieved it. We could even have rigged you up with a cassette player for the words of the songs so you wouldn't be left out. But alas, sadly you chose not to go down that route and you worked from afar. Even Michael Knighton knew how to launch a better charm offensive than you - although juggling a ball & knocking it into an empty net is not enough to fool your average United fan.

How do you feel about Alex Ferguson? I ask because when you took over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers you changed their coach and surely that must have crossed your mind this time? But fair play, you have obviously learned well or been advised even better & it was a good move not to can coach Ferguson. If you have really done your homework on this one (and I think you have) you must know that Alex Ferguson is responsible for how our club has transformed from also rans to 8 times champions in 11 years: He's adored by a huge percentage of the fans for his never ending work ethic & how he groomed a number of young players ready to conquer the world. But he's not a man to be messed with. There are things he could do that could destroy you as soon as he steps down as Manager of Manchester United. He could write a book or even add onto his current autobiography and it could be less than complimentary. He will also be requested on numerous chat shows and a few humorous comments could dent your reputation. So my advice to you is to treat him with the respect he deserves. If ever there was someone within the institution of Manchester United who is not to be messed with, it is Alex Ferguson. Just ask Jaap Stam and David Beckham what the wrong side of him is like.

Then, most important of all, how exactly do you view fans like ours? Have you any appreciation of the time and money that goes into following Manchester United or are we merely a source of cash for you? I'm sorry if that sounds like a rhetorical question but I've done a little bit of research & seen you pose holding young kids in the schools around your American football franchise. While you might think that is important and while it might be important to those living in the area in which your gridiron team resides, I feel respect is what Manchester United fans would appreciate most. We know you're not going to invite representatives of our supporters groups to your house for tea, but nevertheless communication is vital. For a start, you have made no effort to tell us how you intend repaying the enormous debt you owe, or rather that Manchester United now owes. While the doom merchants have predicted sale & leaseback of Old Trafford etc. you have made no effort to appease us by confirming this will not happen. And while arranging for stuntmen to ask your sons for autographs might be a decent PR stunt, it doesn't fool the average Joe Soap who's followed United all over Europe and witnessed the highs & lows of United life. At some point you have to realise that while Manchester United is a big part of your life that makes you money, for countless others it is practically all they spend their money on, be it travel, food, accommodation, tickets or phone bills as they follow the team they love. If you lose these people you will eventually lose everything. A word of warning - you've already lost about 3,000 of those fans who now go to watch FC United of Manchester several divisions below the Premiership. Unlike you, it is not money, wealth & status that motivates them, it is the passion, the football, being with your mates, having fun - all things intangible in monetary terms. I've chosen not to follow FC United of Manchester & continue with the not for sale idea. Oh by the way, that means that the heart & spirit of the club can never be bought, we know you are now the financial owner.

So where do we go from here? Well you might just sit up & take notice of this or you can plough along your merry journey ignoring the people who effectively could help pay off that massive debt. Why not re-open the lines of communication with the supporters groups? Maybe if you gave people their say they would respect you more, but battening down the hatches and pretending we don't exist for 5 days of the week is pretty ineffective. Think of it, if you were in regular contact with the supporters, you might be able to pass on some buzzwords to the boys. For example, if you heard someone say "Keane's fizzing it about today" you would know it was a comment about Roy Keane's passing, not a look of horror on Roy's face after opening a can of Pepsi that had been shaken vigorously. You would also know that "Ronaldo covered Neville well there" did not mean Christiano tucked Gary into bed, but helped him out in defence and "Rio's dealing with the high balls well" doesn't mean he walks under giraffes a lot but his heading is of a decent standard. But on a more serious note, sitting at the head of the empire & being a dictator is not healthy. Eventually all dictatorships crumble & I would almost guarantee you that speaking with the fans could only do you good. Fair enough, right now 99.99% of us would like to see you & your sons head back to the US on a one way flight but you have to ask yourselves why that is. The only efforts you have made to answer questions was the prepared answers Joel gave to the list of questions he wrote for MUTV to ask him. You just took a company worth almost $1Bn and placed an unprecedented amount of debt on it. Naturally, we are going to be a tad upset. So take my advice and speak to the fans because if you don't I think you are doomed.

All in all Malcolm, you've made some serious errors and you continue to make them but a bloke with the business brain of yours cannot be that stupid.  Let us know how things are going and don't dare try to put spin on anything as leaders of our supporters groups will be able to verify your claims almost immediately. Spread the information and tell us what your master plan is. Leave the running of the team completely to Alex Ferguson. And tell the boys to steer clear of the dressing rooms - they're about as useful in there as a eunuch on the set of a porn film. Once you recognise a few basic facts, then things might improve for you. But until you do, you will be hated & we will react to you like cats that see a dog approaching. You've been at the helm of this club now for 4 months and if things go well we might even manage to get you and the boys a free photo with Santa from manutdpics.com! But the true test of any leader is how he treats the people that make up the entity he leads and you have up until now treated us with disdain.

But then again what can we expect? When I was becoming fascinated with Manchester United you had just successfully sued your siblings for your parents will. And I guess since then nothing has changed - 25 years on I'm still a Manchester United fan & money is still the be all & end all of your life. Just please don't show that same willingness to hurt something supposedly close to you in order to make a fast buck. Don't do that to our football club, because the hurt and damage you would then cause would be immeasurable.

John Ryan


Copyright 2005 Red11. All rights reserved.
Not to be reproduced without permission of the author.

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