Manchester United chief executive David Gill insists the Glazer family are going nowhere – and pointed to a new seven-figure sponsorship deal as evidence of the benefits brought to Old Trafford by the club’s controversial owners.
The highly visual green and gold campaign aimed at highlighting opposition to the Glazer family received an unexpected publicity coup when David Beckham picked up one of the scarves and placed it around his neck before he made his way down the tunnel after last night’s Champions League demolition of AC Milan.
Images were flashed round the world almost immediately, bringing instant recognition to the focal point of the protests, and a desire for more knowledge about the Red Knights group aiming to wrest control of the club.
The drip-feed of information from that section continued today when it was confirmed leading global investment bank Nomura will be advising the Red Knights about their prospective takeover bid.
Sources close to the Glazer family have continued to insist the club is not for sale, and they have no intention of off-loading, despite debts in excess of £700m (€770.25m).
It was a message reinforced by Gill as he was announcing a new five-year deal with Telekom Malaysia to become the ’Intergrated Telecommunications Partner’ of the Old Trafford outfit.
“There are protests,” said Gill. “Everyone has the right to protest and there was certainly a lot of green and gold there last night, you cannot deny that.
“But this partnership demonstrates the strength of the club. It is a long-term partnership for five years.
“We will be around for the length of this five-year deal and many more in addition to that.
“We have a sound business model and Telekom Malaysia is partnering one of the best teams in world football. That will always be the case.”
The sponsorship agreement is part of a new commercial strategy implemented by the Glazer family.
Instead of taking a global approach, United adopt a territorial stance, doing exclusive deals in specific areas to maximise income and make the most of an estimated 333 million supporters worldwide.
It was one of the facts the Glazers took into account when they launched their own takeover, which at the time even Gill felt involved too much debt.
Now though he feels the evidence points to a streamlined business model that, in the day-to-day running of the club, delivers huge profits.
“The owners thought we were doing very well on the commercial front but that there were other opportunities out there,” he said.
“This is the insight they have brought in.
“It doesn’t get much media coverage but the very fact they have come in and are able to do these deals benefits us. We can reinvest that money back into the team.”
Gill’s comments reinforce the view inside Old Trafford that the only reason the vast majority of the £80m (€88m) received from Real Madrid for Cristiano Ronaldo remains unspent is due to Alex Ferguson’s reluctance to enter what he feels is an inflated transfer market.
The Manchester United Supporters Trust argue differently of course, although Ferguson is not about to spend big just to prove a point.
However, there could be a spin-off from United’s latest deal.
“Manchester United created a lot of enthusiasm for football when they came on tour last summer,” said Dato’Zamzamzairani Mohd Isa, chief executive of Telekom Malaysia.
“Over the course of this deal I would like to see some of the younger talents in Malaysia go to Manchester United to train and maybe the other way round.
“That will only help our country to progress.”
For United it means a greater connection to the four million fans they are estimated to have in the country, whose passion was shown in the summer when 40,000 people attended a match in Kuala Lumpur at 48 hours notice following the cancellation of the Jakarta leg of their tour.