DAILY Telegraph columnist Jim White has down played reports that Manchester United’s city rivals will emerge as the dominant team in English football. White was guest speaker at today’s media lecture series, Coventry Conversations, and said that both the club and its fans had no need to worry.
Arab investor, Zayed Al Nahyan, is the latest predatory billionaire to buy into a Premier League football club for a colossal sum of money.Al Nahyan backed the Abu Dhabi United Group’s acquisition of Manchester City, and immediately promised to create a dynasty at the club over the next 10 years.
Portsmouth manager, Harry Redknapp, told the Guardian newspaper earlier in the week that he believed all English football clubs to have revised monetary values attached to them.“You show me a football club that is not up for sale. Every football club has a price. There’s not a club in the country that has not got a price on it somewhere,” he said.White said that money alone would fail to secure the blue half of Manchester prolific success, especially as it looks to become an elite club at both domestic and European level.
He agreed that Manchester United was guilty of “exploiting” its past and that the Munich air disaster – as fateful as it was – had since proven to be a significant event in the club’s history. “Manchester United is a temple of wealth, a highly profitable business because it has successfully pushed and promoted its history.“Its legacy has come from the way in which the club recovered from the ashes to re-build and win trophies.”
Since the disaster, Manchester United has emerged as one of the most successful English clubs of all time, winning the Premier League ten times, the F.A Cup eleven times and the Champions League on three separate occasions. Their on-the-field success has been the underlying reason why the monetary value of the club has increased from its original £2million valuation in 1980 to approximately £800 million in the new millennium.
Back in May 2005, US sports tycoon Malcolm Glazer seized control of the club having paid a staggering £790 million for a further 28.7% share stake. The subsequent takeover bid meant the family’s control of the club rose to more than 70%. Despite being against the Glazer takeover and revealing he almost walked away from the club he loved, White acknowledged that commercialism was now dictating the game.
“This is how it creates wealth for the club,” he said. “Manchester United has been made huge because of the things people loathe about it and because it has developed and changed as a club. “From an owner’s perspective, a pound from the pocket of each person around the country is as equally important as those living in the confines of the Old Trafford stadium.”
It was because of commercial objectives that he felt the media was now reporting on an almost weekly basis on spats between team manager and club owner. Citing Mike Ashley – the current owner of Newcastle United and the UK’s 25th wealthiest person – White explained how the sportswear tycoon realised it was harder to earn his millions and quicker to squander them on building a team.
The lack of fund availability and the need to justify spending in the transfer market, therefore, was the sole reason why former-manager, Kevin Keegan, stood down from his role at the Tyneside club. “Current owners of football clubs are less willing to give managers free reign with their money. This is why they create layers of people, like Dennis Wise, between themselves and the manager.”
He suggested that as long as Sir Alex Ferguson remained at Manchester United’s managerial helm, a similar debacle was unlikely. “He is a shrewd manipulator,” said White, adding: “No one will be able to run Manchester United like he has, and I don’t think we will ever see his like again.”