What are the important issues?

By Manasi Pathak

(Reuters) – The Glazer family, owners of Manchester United, have come under intense criticism when the team most recently won silverware by lifting Europa League and League Cup trophies in 2017.

The club is currently experiencing its longest drought in forty years.

WHAT ARE THE PROBLEMS ON THE FIELD?

United, currently led by Erik ten Hag, is fourth in the Premier League standings with 38 points after 18 games, one point behind local rivals Manchester City but nine behind leaders Arsenal.

While the team is making good progress under new manager Ten Hag, the Dutch manager needs the support of the club and their owners to get them back to their heyday when they were considered one of the heavyweights in European football.

In recent years United have fallen into the shadow of City, who won their fourth league title in five years in 2022 and also reached the Champions League final in 2020-21.

Many of the club’s fans complained that the Glazers’ debt buyout left the team broke and club owners had to spend more to attract, retain and win trophies.

As United, like City, tried to spend big on the transfer market, many of these signings, including the likes of Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku, fell short at best.

Meanwhile, City tasted success with names like Erling Haaland, Kevin De Bruyne, Ruben Diaz and Riyad Mahrez.

In addition to their fight against City, United are also competing with Saudi-backed Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur in the race to enter the top four this season.

WHAT ARE THE PROBLEMS ON THE FIELD?

United’s home ground, Old Trafford, has not been redeveloped since 2006 and has been criticized by the Glazer family, fans and former players for neglecting the club’s home and training facilities.

“Now you’re looking at the club, this stadium – I know it looks great here (on TV) but if you look behind the scenes it’s rusty and rotting,” former United captain Gary Neville said in 2020.

“The training ground is probably not even in the top five in this country, they haven’t made it to the Champions League semi-finals in years and we haven’t won a league here in years.”

A new owner will likely need to put more money into the club to fix these issues.

WHAT OTHER PROBLEMS ARE THERE?

The club’s Supporters Trust (MUST) demanded a real say in how the club will be managed in the future, saying that “any new ownership structure should include fans in their operating model, including some degree of fan equity ownership.”

Fans have been wanting to change the owner of the team for more than a decade, and the clamor increased with the failure on the pitch.

A topic of serious debate among fans, United’s net debt rose nearly 23% to £515m ($565.78m) through September and will be another headache for new owners.

The failure of Europe’s top clubs, including Manchester United, to establish a separate Super League also means that players will continue to receive a disproportionate share of the financial spoils.

Any buyer will need deep pockets and patience.

(Reported by Manasi Pathak from Bengaluru and Martyn Herman from London; edited by Nick Macfie)

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