FC United is a concept I understand, but not something I could follow. I understand the frustration life long fans will have felt over the Glazers taking over at our club. All the talk of United losing its soul, and of the club not being the same anymore (as followers of the old failing Labour of the 80’s feel about New Labour) is something that definitely rings true to me as well. However, United are my team, and no matter how disgusted, upset or frustrated I was about the Glazer takeover, changing my allegiances to FC United was not an option for me. This is not me taking a holier than thou approach, or me claiming I’m a bigger red than you, your mate, or your Uncle Fred, but not going to Old Trafford was something I couldn’t bring myself to do, so that was the end of FC United for me.
If the principle of the Glazers was too much for you, then the principle of becoming a .plc should have been. Yes, people half heartedly rallied around the idea of Shareholder’s United, but for the most part, we were too busy celebrating the Treble to be concerned with buying in to our club. Not being a “football club”, according to our badge, irked us in 98, but again, we had trophy after trophy to compensate for it.
When the trophies started to dry up however, and Glazer was the one to succeed in taking over, the principle did become too much. I have heard some FC United followers describe it as the final straw. Maybe I’m cynical, but it seems all too convenient to me. We had been spoilt rotten in the 90s, and between 1990 and 2003, we saw the boys lift 8 league titles, 4 FA Cups, 1 European Cup, as well as a European Cup Winners Cup, a League Cup, a European Super Cup, and an Intercontinental Cup. In the same way children would react if you spoilt them with gifts, and happiness, and all they had dreamed of for years, and then took it all away, United fans threw their dummy out, stomped away from Old Trafford, vowing to never go back whilst Glazer was there.
The worry set in over the effect the crippling debt was having on the club. We’d spent just £6 million on signings Van der Sar and Park, and the money for these players had been made through the sales of Phil Neville and Kleberson (aw, remember him?). Regardless, at the close of the Glazers first season at the club, we’d have our best league finish since we’d last won our trophy in 2003. We won the lowest priority cup, the League Cup, but still, it was better than finishing 3rd and winning nothing as we’d done the previous season. Things were looking up for United, but FC United still hit a high of over 6,000 people at a game towards the close of the season.
The summer came, and United signed just one player, Michael Carrick, for a £14 million sum, which could rise to £18.6 million dependant on what he won with the club. Which was all fine and well, but we’d just sold off our most prolific goalscorer for a meagre £10 million and managed to cash in on the rent boy brat Mikel for £12 million. So, if you look at the deals for Evra and Vidic in the January, United were virtually only spending money they had made from sales. Not the greatest sign.
United go on to have the most successful season since 1999, winning the league, reaching the FA Cup final, and the semi finals in Europe. The attendances for FC United drop, United sell out the new and improved 76,000 seats at Old Trafford every week, and we’re laughing.
Still, with failed bid upon failed bid for Hargreaves, the underlying worry is still there. United don’t have any money. We’ve won the league, but Roman will again splash the cash on World class player followed by World class player (not that Cole, Ballack and Shevchenko did much to live up to their “World class” status this season ) and we’ll be left for dust. Right?
Wrong. Within the past few hours we have seen deals confirmed for “next Ronaldinho” Anderson, Sporting Lisbon, in the Ronaldo mould, star Nani, and finally, the man Fergie has wanted for years, Owen Hargreaves. Pinch me.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m as wary as the next person over supposed “next *insert incredible player’s name here*” signings, but this kid crept in to Chelsea’s radar two years ago, and assuming he doesn’t get sent death threats, go missing, and end up in London, will be donning our colours next season. Nani has been in our sights for some time now, and Ronaldo has previously spoken out encouraging the deal. Despite Spurs’ best efforts, coming in with a late £14 million offer to push the price up, this youngster will be speeding down our wings next season, taking pressure off a tiring Giggs. The addition of Hargreaves gives our midfield the extra muscle it needed, meaning we won’t be relying on the likes of O’Shea and Fletcher as much as we have done over the past few years.
For the first time in two seasons, United are actually spending money on transfers that they haven’t made in sales, confirming the more optimistic fans’ hope. They’re fucking us over but at least we’re buying players that allow us to compete.
Whilst Chelsea have spent hundreds of millions over the past few seasons, United have bobbed along, spending money we’ve made in player sales. Last season, when Chelsea splashed the cash on three established players, and United overpaid for the relatively unproven Carrick, we were written off. Maybe the Glazers are smarter than we have given them credit for, is that possible? Is it really possible that they bought the few players Ferguson asked for, the players Ferguson needed at the least to build a league winning team? Is it possible they trusted Ferguson to do this, and have saved this extra £50 million to spend when we really needed it? We’re already the best team in England, and now we have strengthened our squad in all the right areas, in ways maybe even the most optimistic fan may have doubted we would. I’m not going to give them too much credit, there’s a long road ahead of us yet.
I don’t expect spending sprees like this every summer, and chances are we will revert back to minimal expenditure in the future, but right about now, I’m more excited about the upcoming season than I have been in years. No three cheers for the Glazers, but it’s just nice to see things not crash and burn in the way we expected two summers ago.