Manchester United's American owners have been at the centre of another protest over the last week as fans took to social media in huge numbers to call for the Glazer family to sell the club and get out.
As rumours filtered through that transfer target Mehdi Benatia could be on the move to Bayern Munich instead of Old Trafford, some reports suggested that €6 million rated Philippe Mexes was the preferred alternative. Despite only being casual hearsay, #GlazersOut immediately began trending on Twitter, with fans furious at what they see as a lack of funds made available for transfers.
Resentment and ill-feeling towards the family's involvement in the club has been bubbling away for more than a decade, ever since it became clear that the recently deceased Malcolm Glazer was determined to buyout all existing shareholders from 2003 onwards. 'Love United. Hate Glazer' stickers appeared all over Manchester, a breakaway club was formed and several further protests have taken place over the years. In 2010, the 'green and gold' campaign was a particularly famous example, though it quickly transformed into a fashionable bandwagon rather than a genuine protest.
But the reality is that since the takeover was formally completed in 2005, despite the questionable purchasing methods that plunged the club into debt, United have been as successful as ever. On the pitch the team have won five Premier League titles, three League Cups, a Champions League title, plus two further finals and a Club World Cup. Although not ideal, in that time the club's debt has always been manageable and has been shrinking significantly every year.
Expensive new acquisitions have also continued to arrive consistently. In the summer of 2006, Michael Carrick was brought in for £18 million, 12 months later the club splashed out around £55 million on Nani, Anderson and Owen Hargreaves. In 2008, Dimitar Berbatov joined for a club record £30.75 million and in the years since the likes of Antonio Valencia, Phil Jones, Ashley Young, David de Gea, Shinji Kagawa and Robin van Persie have all cost between £16 million and £24 million each.
In the summer of 2009, United failed to re-invest the majority of the world record fee received for Cristiano Ronaldo. Fans blamed the owners of siphoning off profits, but it was at the behest of the Sir Alex Ferguson, who insisted there was no point because clubs like Real Madrid and Manchester City had ruined the chance of getting any value in the transfer market.
During David Moyes' ill-fated summer transfer window last year, the Glazers were again accused of withholding transfer funds. However, it is widely understood that United made a genuine bid for Gareth Bale, exceeding what Real Madrid eventually paid for him. The issue was that Tottenham refused to sell to another English club, while Bale himself had his heart set on a move to the Bernabeu.
In the last 12 months alone, United have spent the best part of £130 million on new players and fans still aren't happy. This summer, irate supporters still cite examples of the failure to land players like Toni Kroos and Cesc Fabregas, both of whom moved for relatively affordable fees, as proof that the owners refuse to cough up for transfers. But in both cases it wasn't because of the money.
Kroos only ever wanted to join Real Madrid, while Fabregas wanted to move back to London upon returning to England. Perhaps most importantly, it seems that neither was even on the wish-list of new manager Louis van Gaal, who has only now stated his intentions to bring in new players after using the early weeks of his tenure to fully assess what he already had.
Over the last year failed negotiations for new signings have been going on behind the scenes and the problem lies precisely there - convincing players that they should join United over anyone else. There seems to be an element of arrogance and complacency in that respect. Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward is a world class businessman, but he seems naive on football specific operations. Recently stating that United could pay any fee they want was not a smart move and it is his inability to close deals that has been holding United back in the transfer market.
The Glazer family have become a scapegoat for any and every grievance many United supporters have with their club. An army of fans have become accustomed to winning and a the newer generation don't know any different. It seems no coincidence that major protests only flare up when the club has a brief trophy drought on the pitch - 2005, 2010, 2014.
Most fans don't seem to have a firm grasp on exactly why they hate the owners and argue with false facts and twisted truths, but blaming supposed Glazer 'penny-pinching' is not a valid explanation for United's transfer problems.
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