19 January ~ With Manchester United 2-0 up and the dark drawing in towards the end of a rare Saturday 3pm kick-off at Old Trafford, the Stretford End unfurled a banner. Covering the scoreboard by the north-west quadrant, it read simply: "MUFC – Love United Hate Glazer." It sparked a small cheer and increasing interest as people took notice. After a couple of minutes, a row of orange-coated officials emerged and raced down the steps to remove the offensive message. The culprits briefly displayed another banner before being tackled and escorted out.
This led to a ten-minute outpouring of anger towards Malcolm Glazer, the man who bought Man Utd in May 2005, heavily assisted by a loan and whose family is now intent on restructuring the loan debt by converting it into bonds. United paid over £40 million in debt interest alone last year. Perfectly natural and sustainable in business, we are told, which may be true. What is certain is that five years ago a football club that regularly attracts 75,000 people to watch its home games was not in debt, and now it is. You won't have seen any of this on Saturday evening of course. On Match of the Day, a show seemingly produced and presented by people who think Marouane Fellaini doing "a Maradona" is more important than whether or not one of the world's biggest football clubs will exist in its current form in a few years, the only evidence of the impromptu demonstration was the five-second clip with the audible strains of "Malcolm Glazer, you're a wanker".
Some argue that fans shouldn't concern themselves with off-field matters, a camp that presumably includes Sir Alex Ferguson, who told a fan in late 2005 to "go and watch Chelsea" if he didn't like what he was seeing. Every United fan knows Ferguson's managerial ability. But his fall from morally-principled defender of working-class values to hypocritical yes-man has happened only in the eyes of a minority. The takeover mattered to few people proportionally but some feel that the long-term future of the club they love is worth discussing and protesting about. Those who formed FC United fall into that category, those who plaster Manchester and the surrounding region with "Love United Hate Glazer" stickers do too, as do those who unfurled Saturday's banner or reacted vocally to it.
Whether United fans can do anything about the Glazers is doubtful. But they can continue protesting and be spurred into action by the stewards in the pay of those they despise. You may read about it if you frequent certain sites or fanzines. Maybe even if you read David Conn in the Guardian or Patrick Barclay in the Times. Just don't expect to hear about it on Match of the Day. Ben Winstanley