Gary Neville has given a controversial interview with The Times where he has defended his decision not to speak out against their ownership. The American family have taken over £1 billion out of Manchester United since their takeover in 2005 and while Sir Alex Ferguson was able to lead the club to glory in spite of them, we have not even managed to mount a single title challenge since his retirement, let alone win something of note.
What is disappointing about Neville’s stance is the false claim that the protests against the Glazers were only in full swing during periods of disappointment on the field. The Green and Gold protests of 2010 came when we were champions, in the midst of playing in three Champions League finals in four years, during a season when we missed out on the title by one point and won the League Cup.
Having sold Cristiano Ronaldo for a world record fee in the summer, then replacing him with £16m Antonio Valencia from Wigan, and only bringing in washed up Michael Owen for free and Gabriel Obertan for £3m, the supporters could see the direction the club was heading in. Neville seems to have forgotten this though and is re-writing history by omitting the 2010 protests, which is when the anti-Glazer movement arguably reached its peak.
I know the Glazer family, met them probably five times in my life, but whatever Gary Neville says they are not going to do anything. Trust me. They’re going to sell when they want to sell. They’re hardened business people who lived through a campaign of green and gold for two years where the fans were essentially battering them, effigies everywhere and they didn’t budge one inch. If Gary Neville comes out tomorrow and says ‘the Glazer ownership is bad for Manchester United’ they’ll just shrug their shoulders and say ‘there’s another one’.
I took money off the Glazer family from 2004 to 2011 as a player, so the idea that I leave the club and [am] no longer paid by them and start whingeing would compromise me, ‘Oh you were OK when you were taking money off them as a player, and never said anything as a player’.
What is the alternative [to the Glazers]? It is either going to go to a Russian family, Chinese family, Asian family, a Saudi Arabian family. If it gets sold for £3 billion, it is going to be basically people who have £15-20 billion. What are they going to be like? Human rights issues of countries I’ve just mentioned. There is no ideal here.
My biggest problem with the Glazer family over the past seven years is the [fans’ anti- Glazer] campaign 2004-06 where Manchester United weren’t successful, Arsène Wenger came in with the Invincibles, José came in, that’s when there was a real hostility.
All of a sudden in 2006 to 2012, where we were getting to three in four Champions League finals, and winning trophies, it went quiet. Then in 2014-15 when we started to get into a period of non-success again, it builds up again. The idea of screaming about the Glazers every ten minutes, saying they are not good owners, doesn’t get us anywhere.
I’d love owners that pump every penny back into the club on to the pitch, that didn’t take out £20 million a year, or whatever they take out in debt against the club. But I can’t do anything about it. Just stand there and campaign and whinge? Stand on the front of Old Trafford in front of Best, Law and Charlton with my placard up saying ‘Glazers out?’ I’m not going to do that because I haven’t got the solution.
It was during the 4-0 win over AC Milan that the protests got the greatest media attention, where David Beckham’s decision to wear a green and gold scarf (only for him to deny it had anything to do with the Glazers in his post-match interview) served as a catalyst, but the movement had been gaining momentum for months leading up to this point, and continued after it.
During the final game of the season against Stoke, where a 4-0 win wasn’t enough to stop us from losing out by a point to Chelsea, GO Glazer Out posters were held up in all four stands, the fans were dripping in green and gold scarves, and chants about the Glazers were sung throughout.
The following season, United went on to win the league by nine points and reached the Champions League final again, but the protests hadn’t stopped. Both outside and inside the ground, fans were vocal against the Glazers.
Either Neville has genuinely forgotten all of this happened, despite the fact he was playing throughout this time, or he is purposefully choosing to re-write history to give the impression of our fans being fickle. It’s not a good look from a player who seemed to embody our thoughts and feelings about a club we all love.