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It’s nearly 20 years since the American tycoon Malcolm Glazer bought his first stake in Manchester United – now his family’s controversial tenure at the club could finally be coming to an end.

Chants of “Love United, hate Glazers” are regularly heard at Old Trafford and news that the owners are exploring a sale will delight many United supporters.

Here, Sky News tells the story of the Glazers’ ownership of the Premier League club and explains why the family have been so unpopular with fans – even attracting criticism from one of their own star players, Cristiano Ronaldo, who left the club with immediate effect earlier today.

Malcolm Glazer. Pic: AP
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Malcolm Glazer took control of Man United in 2005. Pic: AP

Glazers buy Man Utd – and saddle club with debt

Malcolm Glazer owned the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, an American football team that were then the Super Bowl champions, when he began his investment in United in March 2003.

At the time, United had dominated the Premier League and were one of the most successful clubs in the world, winning an array of silverware under Sir Alex Ferguson.

Glazer took full control of United in June 2005, but the deal was hugely unpopular with fans because it was financed primarily through loans secured against the club’s assets.

Within a year of the leveraged buyout, Glazer had two strokes and his six children – Avram, Joel, Bryan, Kevin, Darcie and Edward – ran United, all of them sitting on the board of directors.

Avram Glazer (L) and Joel Glazer
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Avram Glazer, left, and Joel Glazer are executive co-chairmen of Manchester United

The Glazers’ £790m takeover loaded United with debt that is now around £500m. The club were debt-free before the takeover.

Fans have been enraged by the more than £1bn it has cost the Glazers to service the debt, while cashing in themselves by receiving dividends from the club.

Man United fans protest over Malcolm Glazer's proposed takeover in 2004
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Man United fans protest over Malcolm Glazer’s proposed takeover in 2004

Fan protests and FC United formed

The Glazer family’s first visit to Old Trafford ended in ugly and violent scenes in June 2005 as police clashed with supporters who had effectively barricaded United’s new owners inside the stadium.

Joel, Avram and Bryan Glazer reportedly had to be smuggled down the players’ tunnel and out of the ground in two police tactical aid vans for their own safety.

Police clear a barricade to allow a van, supposedly carrying Joel Glazer, to leave Old Trafford in 2005
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Police clear a barricade to allow a van, supposedly carrying Joel Glazer, to leave Old Trafford in 2005

The Glazers’ controversial takeover prompted a group of disaffected Man United supporters to form a new football club.

FC United began their first season in 2005-06 and now compete in the Northern Premier League Premier Division, the seventh tier of the English football league system.

Sir Alex Ferguson lifts the Barclays Premier League trophy

Success on the pitch

Under the continued management of Sir Alex, United initially remained successful under the Glazers’ ownership, winning five Premier League titles in seven seasons between 2007 and 2013.

With star players Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney, United enjoyed a prolific three-year spell from 2007 to 2009, winning three Premier League titles, a Champions League trophy and the League Cup.

But fans’ anger at the Glazers remained.

Man United fans wave green and gold scarves in protest at the Glazers in 2010
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Man United fans wave green and gold scarves in protest at the Glazers in 2010

Green and gold scarf campaign

In 2010, United fans began donning yellow and green scarves to protest against the Glazers’ ownership.

United are known for their famous red shirts, but the club was originally founded, in 1878, under the name Newton Heath Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Football Club, which played in a bold yellow and green strip.

At the height of the protests, former United player David Beckham put on a green and gold scarf that was thrown on to the pitch during his return to Old Trafford with AC Milan in 2010.

David Beckham wore a green-and-gold scarf when he returned to Old Trafford with AC Milan in 2010

That night, Joel and Avram Glazer were inside the stadium but Beckham later distanced himself from the protest, saying the ownership of United was “not my business”.

Red Knights takeover bid

A group of wealthy supporters were expected to make a bid of about £1bn for United in 2010, despite United insisting the Glazer family owners would “not entertain any offers”.

The Red Knights group, which included former Football League chairman Keith Harris and Goldman Sachs chief economist Jim O’Neil, said that one of its priorities was to reduce debt levels at the club.

The proposed bid was put on hold after the group said media speculation of “inflated valuation aspirations” had hampered its plans.

Many fans want the Glazer family to sell up

Post-Ferguson problems

Since Sir Alex called time on his illustrious managerial career nearly 10 years ago, United’s form has gone downhill.

Despite appointing high-profile managers such as Jose Mourinho and Louis van Gaal, the club has failed to win the Premier League since 2013 – while spending more than £1bn on players in that time.

United have also not won a trophy since their Europa League triumph in 2017.

To make matters worse, arch rivals Manchester City and Liverpool have enjoyed huge success as they regularly compete for Premier League and Champions League titles.

Malcolm Glazer. Pic: AP
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Pic: AP

Malcolm Glazer death

Malcolm Glazer died in 2014 at the age of 85, having never visited Old Trafford during his ownership of the club.

Although he was a controversial figure in Manchester, tributes poured in from the US, where the businessman was hugely respected for turning Tampa Bay from a laughing stock into a Super Bowl-winning franchise.

After Glazer’s death, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said: “Malcolm Glazer was the guiding force behind the building of a Super Bowl-champion organisation.

Manchester United fans protesting outside Old Traford against the club's ownership by the Glazers

European Super League anger

The Glazers attracted more fury from United fans after taking a leading role in attempts to form a European Super League last year.

United, along with Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham, caused outrage with their plans to join the breakaway competition, in which the founding members would be exempt from relegation.

The six English clubs had planned to set up the league with Spanish sides Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid and Italy’s AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus, in a group that some nicknamed the “dirty dozen”.

Soccer Football - Manchester United fans protest against their owners before the Manchester United v Liverpool Premier League match - Manchester, Britain - May 2, 2021 Manchester United fans on the pitch in protest against their owners before the match Action Images via REUTERS/Carl Recine TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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Fans stormed the Old Trafford pitch in May 2021

The proposal led to protests from football fans across England, with several hundred storming the Old Trafford pitch before United were due to play Liverpool, meaning the game had to be postponed.

After the clubs backed down Joel Glazer, who had been announced as a vice-chairman of the European Super League, “apologised unreservedly” to fans, saying: “We got it wrong.”

His brother Avram refused to apologise after Sky News confronted him in Florida.

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Sky News questions Avram Glazer over Man Utd

After the scandal, United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward announced he would be leaving the club, having been an unpopular figure with fans after a series of expensive signings with precious little success.

Neville brands Glazers ‘scavengers’

Former Man United captain Gary Neville – who was a player at the club in 2005 when the Glazers took over – has been a vocal critic of the owners in recent months.

After the European Super League fiasco, Neville branded the Glazers “scavengers” who “need booting out of this football club and booting out of this country”.

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Gary Neville on the Glazers

“We have got to come together,” he told Sky Sports.

“It might be too late, there’ll be people at Manchester United, fans 15 years ago who will say it’s too late.

“It’s never too late, we have got to stop this. It is absolutely critical we do.”

Neville has claimed Old Trafford is “rusting”, with £1bn needed to rebuild the stadium, and the club is in a “mess”.

“When a business is failing and it’s not performing, it is the owners of that business [who are to blame],” Neville said after United were beaten 4-0 by Brentford this season.

“It is really simple. It is failing miserably.

“They took about £24m out of the club two months ago and they have now got a decrepit, rotting stadium, which is second-rate when it used to be the best in the world 15-20 years ago.

“You have got a football project where they haven’t got a clue.”

Neville said there has been a “toxic culture and atmosphere created at the club over a 10-year period” after the departures of Sir Alex and former United chief executive David Gill.

“It is a mess and it cannot carry on,” he added.

Cristiano Ronaldo during a Manchester United game

Ronaldo criticism

The latest high-profile criticism of the Glazers came from one of Manchester United’s very own star players.

Ronaldo launched a blistering attack on the club’s owners during an interview with Talk TV host Piers Morgan.

The Portugal star, who returned to United last year after 12 years away, claimed the Glazers “don’t care about the club” and said it was a “marketing club”.

“They will get money from the marketing – the sport, it’s, they don’t really care, in my opinion,” he said.

Ronaldo also claimed United had not progressed as a club since the departure of Sir Alex in 2013.

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Ronaldo defends explosive interview

“Nothing changed. Surprisingly,” he said.

“Not only the pool, the jacuzzi, even the gym… Even some points, the technology, the kitchen, the chefs, which is, I appreciate, lovely persons.

“They stopped in a time, which surprised me a lot. I thought I will see different things… different, as I mentioned before, technology, infrastructure.

“But, unfortunately, we see many things that I used to see when I was 20, 21, 23. So, it surprised me a lot.”

Since the interview last week, the club’s lawyers had reportedly been looking at ways to bring Ronaldo’s time at the club to an end and on Tuesday it was announced that he was leaving “by mutual agreement, with immediate effect”.

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Talk of sale and interest from Britain’s richest man

Bloomberg reported in August that the Glazer family were considering selling a minority stake in United and preliminary discussions had been held about bringing in a new investor.

It also emerged that one of Britain’s richest men, Sir Jim Ratcliffe, a boyhood United fan and a proven investor in sport through his Ineos company, had expressed an interest in buying the club.

Ineos chairman Sir Jim Ratcliffe
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Sir Jim Ratcliffe expressed an interest in buying Manchester United

In October, he revealed he had met the Glazer family and was told they were not interested in selling Manchester United.

“I met Joel and Avram, and they are the nicest people,” Sir Jim said.

“They are proper gentlemen, and they don’t want to sell it. It is owned by the six children of the father and they don’t want to sell.”

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US sportswriter Grant Wahl dies while covering World Cup game in Qatar

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US sportswriter Grant Wahl dies while covering World Cup game in Qatar

An American sportswriter has died while covering the World Cup in Qatar, his family and US Soccer have said.

Grant Wahl, a former Sports Illustrated journalist who later moved to Substack, died while reporting the match between Argentina and the Netherlands, according to NPR.

US reporters sitting near him said he fell back in his seat during extra time, in a part of the stadium reserved for journalists.

They had called for assistance and, while emergency services responded very quickly, they were later told that Mr Wahl – believed to be 49 – had died.

No further details have been released about his death.

His wife Dr Celine Gounder thanked those who had “reached out tonight”, but added on Twitter: “I’m in complete shock”.

Mr Wahl said last month that he was briefly detained when he tried to enter a World Cup stadium in Qatar while wearing a rainbow shirt in support of the LGBTQ community.

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Same-sex relations are illegal in Qatar.

Detained for wearing rainbow shirt

He said on Twitter that he was detained for 25 minutes for wearing the shirt, with security guards “forcibly” taking his phone and demanding that he remove the shirt before going into the stadium.

He said he had refused.

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Mr Wahl also wrote on Monday that he had visited a hospital in Qatar, saying: “My body finally broke down on me – three weeks of little sleep, high stress and lots of work can do that to you.

“What had been a cold over the last 10 days turned into something more severe on the night of the USA-Netherlands game, and I could feel my upper chest take on a new level of pressure and discomfort.

“I didn’t have COVID (I test regularly here), but I went into the medical clinic at the main media centre today, and they said I probably have bronchitis.

“They gave me a course of antibiotics and some heavy-duty cough syrup, and I’m already feeling a bit better just a few hours later. But still: No bueno.”

US ‘engaged with senior Qatari officials’

US State Department spokesman Ned Price tweeted late on Friday: “We were deeply saddened to learn of the death of Grant Wahl and send our condolences to his family, with whom we have been in close communication.

“We are engaged with senior Qatari officials to see to it that his family’s wishes are fulfilled as expeditiously as possible.”

US Soccer said: “The entire US soccer family is heartbroken to learn that we have lost Grant Wahl.

“Fans of soccer and journalism of the highest quality knew we could always count on Grant to deliver insightful and entertaining stories about our game and its major protagonists: teams, players, coaches and the many personalities that make soccer unlike any sport.

“Here in the United States, Grant’s passion for soccer and commitment to elevating its profile across our sporting landscape played a major role in helping to drive interest in, and respect for, our beautiful game.

“As important, Grant’s belief in the power of the game to advance human rights was, and will remain, an inspiration to all.

“Grant made soccer his life’s work, and we are devastated that he and his brilliant writing will no longer be with us.”

A spokesman for the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) said: “We are deeply saddened by the death of the US journalist Grant Wahl.

“Grant was known for his enormous love of football and was in Qatar to cover his eighth FIFA World Cup.

“He fell ill in the Lusail Stadium media tribune, during last night’s quarter-final match between Argentina v Netherlands.

“He received immediate emergency medical treatment on site, which continued as he was transferred by ambulance to Hamad General Hospital.

“We offer our deepest condolences to Grant’s family, friends and his many close colleagues in the media.”

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Brittney Griner arrives back in US after prisoner swap with Russian ‘Merchant of Death’ Viktor Bout

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Brittney Griner arrives back in US after prisoner swap with Russian 'Merchant of Death' Viktor Bout

US basketball star Brittney Griner has arrived back in America after being freed in a prisoner swap with convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, known as the “Merchant of Death”.

The 32-year-old WNBA star was flown to San Antonio, Texas.

US special presidential envoy, Roger D. Carstens, said: “So happy to have Brittney back on US soil. Welcome home BG!”

Ms Griner was detained in February when customs agents said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.

She had pleaded guilty at her trial saying she used the cartridges to relieve pain from sports injuries and had made an “honest mistake”.

Nevertheless, a Russian court sentenced her to nine years in prison in August.

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Griner’s wife: ‘Family is whole today’

US President Joe Biden said Ms Griner had been held under “intolerable circumstances” and been through a “terrible ordeal”.

More on Brittney Griner

Ms Griner “represents the best of America”, he added.

President Biden insisted the US has not forgotten about Paul Whelan, a former US marine who remains in Russian custody.

A senior US official said the administration tried everything they could to get Mr Whelan out, but “they are treating him differently. They say he is an espionage case. They said the choice was either one [Griner] or none”.

He did not refer to the price the US paid for Ms Griner’s liberty – the release of convicted arms dealer Bout.

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Joe Biden says Brittney Griner ‘lost months of her life’

Bout could land public role now he’s home and dry

Victor Bout has been top of the list of citizens Russia wants back for quite some time. He was jailed in 2012 for 25 years on arms dealing charges after two decades spent selling Soviet-era weaponry to rebels, warlords and dictators.

The Taliban, al Qaeda and Charles Taylor’s regime in Liberia were all reportedly on his client roster.

His life was immortalised in the 2005 Hollywood film Lord of War, starring Nicolas Cage. Russia has always declared him innocent and that the case against him was fabricated.

Selling arms at that level tends not to happen without some kind of relationship with Russian security services, which may also be why Russia was so keen to get him home.

“Bout’s personality was demonised,” Russian lawmaker Maria Butina told me back in August after the US secretary of state said it was ready to strike a deal to get Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan back. “I believe he’s like an evil Russian for the Americans, a bogeyman,” she said.

Butina herself spent 15 months in US detention after she was convicted of acting as an unregistered foreign agent. Now she has a seat in the parliament.

Russia has a tendency to give public positions to people wanted by the West. Don’t be surprised if Bout finds himself with a similar role now he’s finally made it home.

Ms Griner’s wife Cherelle said she was “overwhelmed with emotions” after going through “one of the darkest moments of my life”.

“So today my family is whole, but as you all are aware, there’s so many other families who are not whole.”

The Griner-Bout swap took place at Abu Dhabi airport, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry.

“The Russian citizen has been returned to his homeland,” it said in a statement.

Pressure on Washington over Griner case

For almost two decades, Bout was one of the world’s most notorious arms dealers, selling weaponry to rogue states, rebel groups and murderous warlords in Africa, Asia, and South America.

Ever since his capture in an elaborate US sting, the Russian state has been keen to bring him back.

President Biden’s agreement to release Bout highlights the escalating pressure that his administration has faced to bring Ms Griner home, particularly after the recent conclusion of her criminal case and her subsequent transfer to a penal colony.

Ms Griner’s detention was widely condemned by campaigners, including former NBA star Dennis Rodman, who said he was planning to fly to Russia in a bid to free the US basketball player.

The Texan-born athlete revealed her fears that she could be in prison “forever” in a letter to President Biden on US Independence Day.

She wrote: “As I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey, or any accomplishments, I’m terrified I might be here forever.

“On the 4 July, our family normally honours the service of those who fought for our freedom, including my father who is a Vietnam War veteran.

“It hurts thinking about how I usually celebrate this day because freedom means something completely different to me this year.”

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Brittney Griner arrives back in US after prisoner swap with Russian ‘Merchant of Death’ Viktor Bout

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on

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Brittney Griner arrives back in US after prisoner swap with Russian 'Merchant of Death' Viktor Bout

US basketball star Brittney Griner has arrived back in America after being freed in a prisoner swap with convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, known as the “Merchant of Death”.

The 32-year-old WNBA star was flown to San Antonio, Texas.

US special presidential envoy, Roger D. Carstens, said: “So happy to have Brittney back on US soil. Welcome home BG!”

Ms Griner was detained in February when customs agents said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.

She had pleaded guilty at her trial saying she used the cartridges to relieve pain from sports injuries and had made an “honest mistake”.

Nevertheless, a Russian court sentenced her to nine years in prison in August.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Griner’s wife: ‘Family is whole today’

US President Joe Biden said Ms Griner had been held under “intolerable circumstances” and been through a “terrible ordeal”.

More on Brittney Griner

Ms Griner “represents the best of America”, he added.

President Biden insisted the US has not forgotten about Paul Whelan, a former US marine who remains in Russian custody.

A senior US official said the administration tried everything they could to get Mr Whelan out, but “they are treating him differently. They say he is an espionage case. They said the choice was either one [Griner] or none”.

He did not refer to the price the US paid for Ms Griner’s liberty – the release of convicted arms dealer Bout.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Joe Biden says Brittney Griner ‘lost months of her life’

Bout could land public role now he’s home and dry

Victor Bout has been top of the list of citizens Russia wants back for quite some time. He was jailed in 2012 for 25 years on arms dealing charges after two decades spent selling Soviet-era weaponry to rebels, warlords and dictators.

The Taliban, al Qaeda and Charles Taylor’s regime in Liberia were all reportedly on his client roster.

His life was immortalised in the 2005 Hollywood film Lord of War, starring Nicolas Cage. Russia has always declared him innocent and that the case against him was fabricated.

Selling arms at that level tends not to happen without some kind of relationship with Russian security services, which may also be why Russia was so keen to get him home.

“Bout’s personality was demonised,” Russian lawmaker Maria Butina told me back in August after the US secretary of state said it was ready to strike a deal to get Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan back. “I believe he’s like an evil Russian for the Americans, a bogeyman,” she said.

Butina herself spent 15 months in US detention after she was convicted of acting as an unregistered foreign agent. Now she has a seat in the parliament.

Russia has a tendency to give public positions to people wanted by the West. Don’t be surprised if Bout finds himself with a similar role now he’s finally made it home.

Ms Griner’s wife Cherelle said she was “overwhelmed with emotions” after going through “one of the darkest moments of my life”.

“So today my family is whole, but as you all are aware, there’s so many other families who are not whole.”

The Griner-Bout swap took place at Abu Dhabi airport, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry.

“The Russian citizen has been returned to his homeland,” it said in a statement.

Pressure on Washington over Griner case

For almost two decades, Bout was one of the world’s most notorious arms dealers, selling weaponry to rogue states, rebel groups and murderous warlords in Africa, Asia, and South America.

Ever since his capture in an elaborate US sting, the Russian state has been keen to bring him back.

President Biden’s agreement to release Bout highlights the escalating pressure that his administration has faced to bring Ms Griner home, particularly after the recent conclusion of her criminal case and her subsequent transfer to a penal colony.

Ms Griner’s detention was widely condemned by campaigners, including former NBA star Dennis Rodman, who said he was planning to fly to Russia in a bid to free the US basketball player.

The Texan-born athlete revealed her fears that she could be in prison “forever” in a letter to President Biden on US Independence Day.

She wrote: “As I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey, or any accomplishments, I’m terrified I might be here forever.

“On the 4 July, our family normally honours the service of those who fought for our freedom, including my father who is a Vietnam War veteran.

“It hurts thinking about how I usually celebrate this day because freedom means something completely different to me this year.”

Continue Reading

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