LONDON (Reuters) - An uneasy truce between Manchester United fans and the Glazer family who run the famous Premier League club is in place as the 10th anniversary of their ownership approaches on Tuesday.
When the Glazers bought United it sparked a fans’ revolt but the Americans are now reluctantly tolerated, a situation that will be helped by a return to the Champions League next season amid progress under Dutch coach Louis van Gaal.
Much of the deep hostility from the supporters towards the Glazers remains, although the fact that the club have generally enjoyed success since their arrival has quelled some of the more vehement opposition amongst the huge fanbase.
The owners have done themselves no harm this weekend, letting it be known they have no intention of selling the naming rights to the club’s home ground at Old Trafford.
There has been speculation during the season that the Glazers would raise about 20 million pounds ($30.92 million) a year by allowing England’s second-biggest stadium to be renamed.
While there has been no official club statement, British media reported on Sunday that this was now unlikely to happen.
If that is the case the Glazers will get the full backing of the United fans for once and more cordial relations with the supporters will continue at least for the time being.
A decade after their controversial leveraged takeover of United, which burdened the club with a debt of 525 million pounds in May 2005, the owners still maintain a low profile.
Many United fans vociferously opposed the takeover and a section formed their own semi-professional club, FC United of Manchester, playing in the sixth tier of English soccer.
The ‘gold-and-green’ campaign, with fans wearing scarves in the colours of the club’s 19th century founding fathers, drew more than 150,000 members with some vowing never to return to Old Trafford while the Glazers were in charge.
Many still believe, rightly or wrongly, that the Glazers were using United’s wealth to boost their U.S. finances at the expense of the club’s appetite for success.
A recently published book “The Glazer Gatekeeper” by their former spokesman Tehsin Nayani gives the Glazers’ side of the story, despite an opening sentence that reads: “The Glazers may not be the ideal owners of Manchester United.”
In the following 300-plus pages he attempts to argue why they are.
Even the Glazers’ most die-hard opponents acknowledge that United have won silverware under their ownership, including five Premier League titles and a Champions League crown in 2008.
While they failed to keep Cristiano Ronaldo at Old Trafford after the Portugal forward joined Real Madrid in 2009 for a world record fee of 80 million pounds, the Glazers silenced some of their critics last summer when they splashed the cash for new coach Louis Van Gaal’s dip in the transfer market.
They are also reportedly planning to make more investments for next season and started early by securing the 25 million-pound signing of highly-rated 21-year-old Dutch international striker Memphis Depay from PSV Eindhoven.
United’s quarterly accounts, published in February, showed the debt was down to 380 million pounds and results due to be released on Thursday will provide the latest figures.
($1 = 0.6469 pounds)
Additional reporting by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Ken Ferris