ARTICLES Opinion

Mainstream media reaction to Old Trafford protest is proof that the Glazers aren’t the only ones who don’t understand Manchester United.

“Whatever the Glazers have done, however understandable the anger, it does not legitimise that kind of behaviour,” writes Jason Burt, for the Telegraph. He further states that “[Manchester] United should be punished by the Premier League for the posponement [of the Liverpool match].”

But, punished for what?

“Someone threw a flare up to this stage today. That is unacceptable,” Graeme Souness said live on Sky Sports. He also claimed it is “not the Glazers fault” that Manchester United have had little success in recent years.

But, who makes the decisions that lead to success at the club?

Gary Neville, who at times can be well known to over-step the fine line between explaining an opinion and going on an outright rant, hit the nail of the head. While the protest was going on outside Old Trafford, he said on Sky Sports “They’ve stood up for what they think is right. They’ve had enough, we can make this story about the disturbances, but the story is today that Manchester United fans have spoken. They’ve had enough.”

Protests against the ESL and protests against the Glazers – What’s the difference?

Just a fortnight ago, while Manchester United were playing Burnley live on Sky Sports, news broke that the so-called ‘big six’ Premier League clubs would be joining a host of Europe’s top clubs to create a breakaway European Super League, and the reaction was rightly a mix of pure anger, shock and frustration. Sky Sports allowed Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher to both embark on passionate rants and arguments shaming the move that was partly spearheaded by the Glazer family (alongside Real Madrid president Florantino Perez and Arsenal owner Stan Kronke).

This was in tandum with opinion articles from multiple major outlets in the UK condeming the breakaway, however a little over two weeks later, when Manchester United fans held a demonstration outside Old Trafford with the intention of getting rid of the exact same family that the UK media collectively condemned two weeks earlier, suddenly Manchester United fans are in the wrong? Rather ignorantly, the media don’t understand.

The outrage against the ESL was a rare moment of fan unity that stretched across and beyond club rivalries – something which all avid fans of tribalistic football know is something to be held above anything else. However, the spirit and coming-together-ness created by the ESL was all very quickly forgotten once the ESL was disbanded, and it’s quite saddening to see. You see, fans came together to stop greedy money grabbing owners from making moves which would deeply hurt their clubs routes, foundations and traditions, and how is that any different to what United fans were protesting on the weekend?

Chelsea and Arsenal fans, just two weeks earlier, were protesting outside their respective grounds to demonstrate to their owners that they were unhappy with the decisions that had been taken. How was Manchester United’s protest any different? Chelsea’s protesters were hailed as heros at the time, as their protest directly led to them being the first club to pull out of the ESL, yet two weeks later Manchester United fans were branded “hooligans” and “thugs” for doing something that, in the grand scheme of things, wasn’t that different.

The media are twisting the narrative

To take a cynical view for a moment, the re-branding of these fans from “heros” to “thugs”, especially from outlets such as Sky Sports, is likely just down to money. The creation of the European Super League would be detrimental to Sky and BT Sport (as well as broardcasters outside the UK), who own the rights to Premier League, Champions League and Europa League football, because their respective TV rights deals would plummet in value. The Glazers leaving Old Trafford would have little to no effect on Sky’s viewing numbers, however the protest itself did ruin their “Super Sunday” clash between Manchester United and Liverpool, which no doubt would have harmed their viewer numbers and revenue for what is normally one of the most watched matches in the Premier League each season.

The change in narritive by the media, with money motives aside, is a clear sign of ignorance and a large group of people being significantly uninformed. It was heavily reported in the hours soon after the protests ended that two policemen had been injured, and a photo circled online of one policeman with a gash just under his left eye. Don’t get me wrong, the actions by a few fans that led to two policemen getting hurt are wrong, and any protesters involved in that were quite clearly not at the protest for the right reasons, however plenty of evidence and videos have come to light in the last two days that show a very different story, like the video above. Keep your eye on the man who has his arms crossed – he is taken out by multiple policemen, despite posing absolutely no active threat. Other videos have also surfaced such as one showing policemen taking another protester behind a police van and punching him, and once these policemen realise they are being filmed, they aggresively ask the cameraman to leave the area.

Another example of the media creating a false narrative is the report that fans climbed over gates to let people in to Old Trafford, something that was both reported as an exclusive by Chris Wheeler from the Daily Mail and also stated in Manchester United’s official statement on the protest. But here’s an interesting twist in the tale: video footage (shown below) has since come out that shows matchday stewards letting fans in to the ground, which is something that was conveniently left out in all statements and articles written about the fans who supposedly “broke in” after the front door was left wide open for them.

The media are angry because they don’t understand.

The overall motivation behind the protests is pretty binary – United fans don’t like the Glazers, so United fans will protest to try and make them sell or concede majority ownership. That is simple to understand. The tricky and more complex part, which most rival fans and the mainstream media don’t understand is WHY United fans don’t like the Glazers. After all, they did break a world record transfer fee for Paul Pogba in 2016 and British transfer records for Juan Mata and Angel Di Maria in the few years prior, and they have spent more money on players in the last 10 years than most other clubs in Europe.

United have also won 12 trophies under the Glazers ownership including five Premier League titles, four League Cups and a Champions League. On the surface, that sounds like a pretty decent 16 years for a club, and these are all arguments regularly used by people who don’t understand the gravity of the situation at Manchester United. Also I’d bet money that a fair few Arsenal and Tottenham fans would swap their clubs’ respective successes in the last 16 years for United’s successes in the last 16 years in a heartbeat.

But – and I say this with absolute certainty – they are completely missing the point. There are some extremely obvious reasons as to why United fans want the Glazers gone, with the main reason being that they have not put a single cent of their own money in to the club. When they took over, United was completely debt free, however that quickly changed. A brilliant thread explaining Manchester United’s finances under the Glazers by twitter user @SwissRamble gives us a breakdown on what money has gone where. Most shockingly, it has been revealed that although Manchester United have spent a little over £1 billion net on player transfers, the club has paid £704m in interest and £244m in debt repayments, and in this time the Glazers have taken out £125m in dividends for themselves. This equates to a little over £1.1 billion, which is MORE than the club have spent on improving the first team squad.

Although these are deeply depressing numbers, for me personally, the saddest part of the Glazer’s ownership is the lack of care and connection for and with the club. Although this is obviously evidenced by their eagerness to join the ESL, their lack of care has been clear to see throughout their entire tenure. It took until May 2018 for Manchester United to finally have a women’s first team, and even then they play most of their “home” games at Leigh Sports village, despite the club definitely having the resources to let them play at Old Trafford. The youth teams play more games at the Theatre of Dreams than the women’s first team do.

In 2005, Joel Glazer claimed that they would be putting money in to the training ground to help make it one of the most advanced and best training facilities in world football. However, 16 years later we are yet to see these changes. The training ground has fallen behind in facilities compared to clubs such as Leicester City, who Manchester United legend Peter Schmeichel has stated in an interview with CBS is one of the best in the world, a claim that Manchester United should definitely be striving to achieve over a club like Leicester City. If the Glazers truly cared, these changes would have been made years ago.

In December 2014, Manchester City announced they had completed the construction of a new training facility that comprised of 12 youth development football pitches and 4 first team training pitches for youth teams to play their league games on and the first team to train on. In comparison, Manchester United youth teams still play the majority of their competitive matches on the first team training pitches. The lack of investment in youth team football, something which the Manchester United legacy is built on, is just another bullet point on the long list of reasons why the Glazer family do not care about the football club and are not fit to own Manchester United. This is without even mentioning the fact that Old Trafford is in desperate need of repairs and upgrades, and has been for a number of years.

To conclude…

If there’s anything I would want someone to take away from this article, it’s this: the only way to get the media to understand the plight of Manchester United fans is to educate them on the deeper meanings as to why United fans despise the Glazer family as much as they do, in spite of the “success” the club has had under their ownership. Manchester United has such a rich, cultured, and incredible legacy within football, and these last 16 years have been one giant slap in the face to all that us fans hold so dear, and that breaks my heart. I don’t think they will ever really understand, but the best we can do, as fans of this great club, is try.

The next protest is due to happen on the 15/16th of May, for when the clash against Liverpool is set to be rescheduled to. Bring a mask, be there.

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