David Prosser: 'Red Knights' were once seen as devils

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The Independent Online

Outlook There is certainly plenty to dislike about the way the Glazer family bought Manchester United and loaded it up with debt, but one cannot help a wry smile at the identities of some of the Red Knights now riding over the hills to the rescue of the club on behalf of "true" football fans. If the likes of Jim O'Neill and Paul Marshall now represent the acceptable face of capitalism, it tells you something about the opprobrium reserved for the Glazers.

Mr Marshall is one half of the partnership that founded Marshall Wace, the hedge fund business. You may have seen his name mentioned in despatches a few times over the past couple of years: first when his hedge fund hit the headlines selling short the shares of Halifax Bank of Scotland and Northern Rock (remember what happened to them?), and next when he appeared in front of MPs defending the hedge fund industry and battling a ban on short selling.

Mr O'Neill, meanwhile, is chief strategist at Goldman Sachs. You'll definitely have come across its name. Think massive bonuses for staff only a year after the global banking bailout, think advice to Greece on how to circumvent EU borrowing rules, think investment bank famously dubbed as a "great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity".

None of this is to say the Red Knights would be unsuitable bidders for Manchester United, or even to accept that criticism of their day-to-day business activities is necessarily fair – just to observe that people's memories are short and that when it comes to football, all rational thought disappears out of the window very quickly. For, like the Glazers themselves, some of these knights are all too familiar with the feeling of being public enemy No 1.

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