Cup Final fails to score in Glazerville

In the city where Man Utd's new owner is based, there was no interest in the big game
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The Independent US

It was a simple enough invitation. Now that their dad owned the controlling stake in Manchester United, perhaps Joel and Bryan Glazer would like to come and watch the game?

It was a simple enough invitation. Now that their dad owned the controlling stake in Manchester United, perhaps Joel and Bryan Glazer would like to come and watch the game?

The Independent on Sunday had nothing special in mind. A few hours at a sports bar a few miles from their waterfront homes, a couple of mid-morning pitchers of ice-cold beer as they watched the FA Cup Final, and a chance to chat about United's mixed fortunes.

Alas, it was not to be. A security guard at Tampa's Harbour Island gated community where the Glazers' neighbours reportedly include Generals "Stormin' Norman" Schwarzkopf and Tommy "We don't do body counts" Franks, said no one was answering the phone.

If the Glazer brothers appeared less than overwhelmed by the fact that their father's £790m acquisition were playing in the FA Cup Final yesterday, they were in good company here in Tampa, the Florida city in which Malcolm Glazer bought the local American football team, the Buccaneers, 10 years ago.

Indeed, local sports fans appeared about as interested in "soccer" as they were in bull-fighting. Daniel Ruth, a columnist with the Tampa Tribune, went as far as to suggest that Man Utd was "the world's foremost collection of men in their underwear playing the most boring sport on the face of the planet".

Such balanced reporting aside, football is of course ­ as Mr Glazer's purchase has shown ­ a truly international sport, unlike the stop-start, testosterone-pumped pastime in which players wear helmets and shoulder pads. So why are the fans in Tampa not more excited at the prospect of embracing the beautiful game?

"I have never seen a game of soccer shown in here," said 26-year-old Michael Booth, sitting at the bar at Walter's Press Box, a well-known Tampa sports bar, on Friday. "I think there is too much competition ­ there's football, baseball, basketball, hockey."

The Press Box bar is a monument to all things sporting. The walls are full of signed jerseys from local stars, there's a pair of boxing gloves belonging to a lightweight champion sitting in a case and a bank of televisions were showing four or five different sports simultaneously.

But of Man Utd and of the FA Cup final, there was not a trace. Apparently only one bar in the entire city showed the match. "This is the first that I even heard he had bought the team," said Tommy Rex, a locksmith and a dedicated "Bucs" fan.

The dichotomy of soccer in the US ­ played by millions of schoolboys and girls but ignored as a professional sport ­ is well known. But if the game were to have a chance anywhere it ought to be in newly booming Tampa. Indeed between 1975 and 1984 the city was famous as home of the Tampa Bay Rowdies, a club that attracted the likes of the mercurial Rodney Marsh.

Whether Malcolm Glazer has the charisma, ability or even the desire to turn US sports fans on to British football is far from clear. Indeed at a press conference on Friday afternoon, Bryan Glazer declined to discuss Man Utd other than to say it should not interfere with their effort to host the Super Bowl in 2009.

And while the Buccaneers won the Super Bowl a couple of years ago, few fans here express any warmth for him. Countless people said his interest in teams was purely financial. And that remained the case yesterday. The message from the Glazer family, who now control the team which yesterday happened to be playing in the equivalent of the Super Bowl, was that it was business as usual.