In what seems to have been a co-ordinated attempt to head off a much-anticipated bid from the Red Knights group, a strongly worded attack from chief executive David Gill has been followed up by confirmation, included in a financial statement released yesterday, that the Glazers remain committed to Old Trafford.
The Glazers’ willingness to deal with the Red Knights at a figure exceeding £1 billion (€1.1bn) has been assumed by the group aiming to take control.
It now seems they have got the Americans’ stance completely wrong.
United may still have massive debts and many of their supporters remain committed to the highly visual ‘Green and Gold’ campaign.
But they have been warned their controversial owners are going nowhere.
“The board noted recent press speculation regarding a possible bid for Manchester United,” the statement read.
“The owners remain fully committed to their long-term ownership of the club. Manchester United is not for sale and the owners will not entertain any offers.”
It is the most forceful statement United’s owners have ever issued on their stewardship of the club and backs up a stance that has long been maintained by sources close to the Glazer family.
Although included within the financial statement was confirmation of United’s huge debt, which has reduced slightly to £520m (€610m), the impression has been given that the owners are comfortable with that position – even though there is additional debt through payment-in-kind notes, for which they as a family are liable, that are now attracting interest at an eye-watering 16.25%.
Recently, there have been suggestions that the Red Knights are running into trouble, and yesterday’s announcement will only heighten any sense of futility within the group.
However, the Manchester United Supporters Trust, which have led the ‘Green and Gold’ campaign so successfully, are refusing to take the statement at face value.
“Not For Sale? That has a familiar ring to it. Of course the last time Manchester United was ‘Not For Sale’ was back in 2005 and what happened next — the Glazer family bought it,” reflected MUST chairman Duncan Drasdo.
“It is clear from the reactions on the Manchester United message boards that supporters are not buying into the spin coming out through the Glazers’ PR machine.
“If the club really isn’t for sale why would they need to say anything at all? Why are they so concerned about telling everyone they don’t want to sell? If they don’t want to sell they can simply reject any offer. It sounds like the gentleman doth protest too much.”
However Gill feels there is enough evidence to show United will continue to avoid the nightmare scenario that has engulfed Liverpool over the past 12 months.
“I firmly believe that with the financing we have in place and the growth we have seen in our commercial operations, even with the (annual) interest of £45m (€53m), we can sustain that and still be a top, top club,” Gill said.