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Problems today at Manchester United. After a less than successful season David Moyes has been forced out of his job as manager of the team. His reign at United was only eleven months of a six year contract so obviously a resignation would have lost him a fortune. As a result he will need to be bought out of his contract by the team, owned by the Glazer family (largely disliked by the supporters) but more of that later.
Originally appointed with the blessing if not insistence of previous manager Alex Ferguson arguably the most successful manager in English football ever, he had big shoes to fill, but perhaps more complicatedly, he inherited a team which was already waning. Competition from other English clubs with deeper pockets funded by Russian and Arabian money were paying enormous sums on the transfer market and similar exploits from German and Spanish teams meant that in order to have the very best players (although he did have some) meant spending more money than he was being afforded by the board of the club. Arguably the best player in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo had already left for £80m for Real Madrid and other stars in the team were not happy with the state of affairs.
Supporters of the club were unhappy with the owners (Glazer family) claiming the club was being leveraged as a business in order to maximise the returns on investment and not prioritising the winning of competitions, as a result the budgets afforded to the manager in the transfer window were reduced, not only reducing the amount he could spend on the top players, but knowing this was also an incentive for top player to join knowing that United would become less competitive as a result - a double whammy.
The results have been easy to see - Manchester United have failed to qualify for next years champions league season, and will probably finish 7th or 8th in the Premier League here in England. Good for almost any other team, but for a top club that’s used to winning it simply wasn’t good enough.
So here’s the problem - was David Moyes ever in a position where he was going to be allowed to succeed? It seems to me that if the club was being starved and at the same time drained of money, he was the captain of a sinking ship, but like all big ships, it takes time for them to sink. Until then, the enormous fan base will be milked of all their appreciative dollars until they no longer want to support the club and move onto another one they can watch in the top flight.
This scenario is not isolated to Manchester United, many other clubs will be under the same pressure to spend more and more, forcing up costs of players, agents, managers, TV rights, ticket prices etc etc and since success is the only likely way to maintain a reasonably sustainable revenue stream I can’t see this spiral ending any time soon. Perhaps the Glazer family is out of its depth when trying to compete with the sovereign wealth fund of the UAE ad its oil reserves at the trophy team just down the road at Manchester City? It remains to be seen, but as a trophy team with almost unlimited resources seems to be the only way to win over the last few and probably next few seasons it begs a question very few appear to ask - why would you support a team of foreign nationals, paid for and owned by an international conglomerate / wealth fund whose sole interest is to relieve you of as much money as they can in as short a period of time possible? The so called “big clubs” were built on local apprentices representing their local area and the support came naturally. Supporting a big club now is more like buying shares in a top company hoping the price will go up - if they buy a few good “players” you get more success - but did everyone forget about football?
The only playing field which is far from level but not driven by money (at least at a team level) is the world cup so all our escorts in Birmingham will be cheering for England this June hoping they can do well and bring a little cheer to the country. Although it would appear that nationalism is long on the wane too, but I’ll save that for another article.