The takeover of Manchester United by the Glazer family was a tumultuous time for the club, with fans of the Premier League club going far enough in their anger to inspire the FBI to monitor threats against Malcolm Glazer’s safety.
Now a former communications manager and PR man for the Glazers during that time, Tehsin Nayani, has lifted the lid on the private family’s dealings with a new book entitled, “The Glazer Gate Keeper”.
Nayani was in charge of communicating with the press and investors in regards to Manchester United’s financials, which was a great source of consternation for supporters who didn’t foresee the Glazers’ shoring up United’s debt any time soon (They’ve since nearly halved the debt to nearly a billion dollars to about $565 million, which is still an incredible amount of money).
This BBC report includes a hilarious anecdote that shows the ego and humor of Sir Alex Ferguson, who sat on top of the crate that holds the UEFA Champions League trophy to eat breakfast at a hotel in 2008.
But it also shows an ownership group that kept its cool in the face of plenty of hatred. Naive at times, it seems the Glazers were confident in their direction of the club, going so far as to see Vodafone’s pulling out of United shirt sponsorship as the opportunity to bring a larger money deal into the club.
A better story involves seeing the big picture, after former United and then AC Milan player David Beckham donned the green and gold scarf of the Supporters Trust after a UCL tie at Old Trafford. He received a standing ovatio.
With that one gesture, the world’s most recognisable footballer gave visual support to the colours adopted by the anti-Glazer movement.
“I immediately grabbed my Blackberry, scrolled through my address book to JG and pressed the green icon,” recounts Nayani, who had left the stadium for his Manchester hotel long before the final whistle.
“Joel, are you watching what I am watching?”
Far from being alarmed or worried at the development, Glazer was calm and measured in his response, first stating “is it so bad?”, then realising Nayani was still frantic at the protestors getting such a world-famous ‘poster boy’, reasoning: “Football is a passionate business. Won’t it blow over? It has always blown over in the past.
“Sure some fans are angry and protesting inside Old Trafford but from where I am sitting there are many millions of fans happy that the team are through to the next round.”
It will be interesting to measure whether time is kind, or even increasingly kind, to the Glazer regime. Manchester United remains one of the richest clubs in the world. Glazer detractors claim this is in spite of the ownership. Will this be disproven in the next decade?
Family patriarch Malcolm Glazer passed away in May at the age of 85, and faced plenty of vitriol from groups like the Manchester United Supporters Trust over the duration of his tenure in charge. Still, the Glazers made more of the club public following Malcolm’s passing.
The BBC story is well worth the read. For United supporters, surely the book could be a must-grab, open-minded or not, and for pain or pleasure. I don’t pretend to be well-acquainted with the inner-workings of the family nor United, but theirs is an interesting relationship.