Apart from Wayne Rooney’s incredible goal scoring, last season’s activities at Old Trafford were headlined by the support turning on the club’s American owners.Green and gold scarves were the norm at the Theatre of Dreams last season, but it only went to make Old Trafford look strangely colourful rather than to portray a message of disgruntlement. Granted, the fans united under one voice, but the Glazers were unmoved. However, this summer the fans have made a move that will not only make the Glazers sit up and take note, but that could be dire for the future of the 19-time league champions.
The club has been forced to put 4,000 season tickets on the general sale, as regulars and a 10-year waiting list have faded in the wake of the countries financial crisis and the resentment shown towards the ownership of Manchester United.The recession can only be partly blamed for this lack of sales, as with United’s huge support there have always been enough fans willing to splash out, but seemingly not anymore. At times last season, during the height of the anti-Glazer protesting the fans would begin to chant, whistle or even turn their back on the team on the field just to make their point. Although in terms of results it made little difference, they were clearly more intent on displaying frustration to the Glazers, rather than supporting the team.
This recent move by the supporters could in fact be the beginning of the end. As a result of these ticketing problems financial experts have predicted that the club’s annual match day income will drop to £98 million. Yes, it’s still a huge amount but for it to decrease when the club is fighting to pay off £500 million worth of debt, is worrying. These figures mean the Glazers need the supporters on side. The line the fans are taking is a risky one. They appear to want the club to be on its knees, before a fans consortium buys it out. It’s a surprising move from a set of supporters who will be exchanging on the field success, which will surely be affected, for control of the club they once knew. Perhaps United fans are not the glory supporters everyone once thought they were?
The Glazers’ only option to get the fans back on their side, is to invest heavily in the team, which this summer at least has not come to fruition. Ferguson has a history of delving into the market after his team had been piped to a league title, and whether he actually believe there is value in the market or not, that wouldn’t stop him; finances have.
So where does this leave the team? Under strengthened for the new season, and nervously looking over their shoulders as neighbors City continue to flex their financial muscle. With their backs against the wall they could do with those same want away fans more than ever. It’s time for that support to get their priorities right.