Manchester United’s chief executive Richard Arnold was covertly recorded at the weekend. Arnold admitted that last season was a nightmare at United and that he hated every game. Arnold explained the fans’ protests contributed to that nightmare.
The anger against the Glazers’ ownership was palpable following the collapse of the European Super League last year. There were unprecedented protests around Old Trafford and genuine momentum seemed to be gathering. That momentum was lost across the summer, but the anger never truly went away. United supporters have never approved of their American custodians.
That anger has now boiled to the surface again following the worst season at the club for decades. United recorded their lowest ever Premier League points total and the club equalized its longest trophy drought for 40 years last term. Manchester United are painfully becoming unrecognizable, but that does not seem to matter to the Glazers, who continue to make money regardless of results.
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Ed Woodward infamously once said: “Playing performance does not really have a meaningful impact on what we can do on the commercial side of the business,” and those words could have come from the Glazers’ mouths if they actually spoke in public.
Although Woodward is understood to regret those comments, they give an insight into the mentality of the club’s hierarchy. The mask slipped on that occasion and confirmed fans’ suspicions. It’s no wonder that Woodward’s departure was widely celebrated.
However, Woodward was just a symptom of the Glazers’ ownership. United have regressed in every department under their leadership and the club needs heavy investment to challenge Manchester City and Liverpool. That investment is needed in the first-team, the redevelopment of Old Trafford and in Carrington, which is no longer the leading training facility in the Premier League.
Considering those problems, the reaction from supporters to last month’s financial figures at the club was no surprise. They’re watching the club they adore, live and breathe decline in front of their eyes while the Glazers continue to take dividends.
The club’s third-quarter financial figures have been released and they confirmed United will be paying an £ 11m dividend to shareholders – mainly to the Glazers – despite losses of £ 27m for the quarter and £ 44m for the year to date, wages up 20% and net debt up over £ 50m. The dividend has been paid every six months since 2016 and that’s including during the pandemic.
The dividend will arrive in the Glazers’ bank accounts this week and Gary Neville, who has regularly criticized their ownership of the club, is among those who are angry. “The Glazer Family should NOT be taking £ 11m in dividends this Friday,” Neville wrote.
“It’s not right with the investment needed in the team, stadium and training ground. The club’s cash position is low compared to previous years. An announcement is needed to halt it for the next 3 years minimum.”
The Glazers halting the dividend for three years like Neville has suggested would be an easy and much-needed PR break for the club’s owners. It could be an attempt at building bridges with supporters, but the relationship seems beyond repair, in truth.
That’s because fans argue the Glazers have never cared about reading the room. They argue they do not care about United and they do not care about the supporters. They do care about being paid their dividends. It’s said a leopard never changes its spots.
After a disastrous season, United have been thrown into transition and they’re now at a crossroads. Erik ten Hag has been appointed, but his work will be undermined without the required infrastructure. There seems to be a ceiling on the success that can be achieved at the club with the Glazers in charge. They need to accept and implement radical change or sell the club to good custodians.
The latter currently appears unlikely, but supporters’ protests are increasing the pressure on their ownership. When Arnold talked to supporters on Saturday, he warned the Glazers are ‘not frightened of people’ and that statement will be tested by fans.
The Glazers will be paid their dividends this Friday and it is expected that United still will not have signed anyone by then.
United fans have had enough and the anger is rising once again.
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