Black is the new Red as the air turns blue

Anti-Glazer fans' group unveil 10-point plan to raise £50m and cut off new owner's revenue streams
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The Independent Online

They were asked to wear black to mourn the death of their club and the fact that the Manchester United players also donned the colour - having lost the traditional toss of a coin and the right to wear their home strip - seemed all the more appropriate.

They were asked to wear black to mourn the death of their club and the fact that the Manchester United players also donned the colour - having lost the traditional toss of a coin and the right to wear their home strip - seemed all the more appropriate.

For the fans, it was supposed to be a symbol to mourn the death of their club following Malcolm Glazer's lamented, lambasted £812m takeover. For the team, there was also the fear that something else had passed away. Defeat here somehow would feel grave for United, for players such as Roy Keane and Ryan Giggs, having finished a distant third to Chelsea in the Premiership - a result which made their eight titles in 11 years appear remote. Maybe they, too, were fighting for their footballing lives.

"It's just like looking at the Stretford End," thumped out the man with the mike employed to whip up United's 25,000 fans, mainly sat in the South Stand. Except it wasn't. There was no riot of red. Black jackets, sweaters, T-shirts, armbands formed a defiant, sober block instead. "MUFC 127 years. Glazer not in a million years," read one; "RIP," in red, white and black another; "You will never buy me," declared a third. But, in truth, the words of protest were limited and outnumbered by the usual declarations from "Gatley Reds" and "Sale Reds" and the self-styled republic of "Mancunia".

There was fear of something more substantial. Sean Murphy, the spokesman for the United for Action fans' group, admitted beforehand he was "sure" a pitch invasion had been discussed but promised a "colourful, peaceful protest". He added: "Ninety-nine per cent of United fans will stay within the boundaries of the law." But that still left one per cent to worry about.

Not that the authorities appeared concerned. South Wales Police had dismissed calls for extra officers, claiming their usual, admittedly substantial presence, was enough supported by the 1,000 stewards on duty but there was little they could do about the Arsenal goading with chants of "USA" even if they were nothing more than half-hearted and sporadic.

Glazer and his family were, wisely, not present. Even their heavy-handed approach did not stretch to that. But, their advisers said, they would be among the 500m television viewers. Quite what those advisers also made of the thousands of leaflets which were being distributed outside the Prince of Wales pub, the rallying point for United support close to the central station, was another matter.

The leaflets were eagerly grasped and their contents may even have made Glazer blanch. This was no non-specific cry of anger, no paper-endorsement of the chants outside the pubfor the new owner to go and die - to the tune of "She'll be coming round the mountain".

No. It was a specific 10-point plan which, if galvanised, would have an effect. Besides recommending a boycott of merchandising, the cancellation of MUTV subscriptions and the sponsors' products (complete with a list of addresses to protest to), the coalition of support called for the resignation of United's chief executive David Gill, and the other board members, in protest at Glazer's business plans. Other means of attacking the buy-out are under way - such as a legal challenge and a bombardment by phone, fax and email - while a rally is due in Manchester for Bank Holiday Monday.

Shareholders United are also urging all fans ultimately to accept the Glazer offer of £3 a share then put the proceeds into a "Phoenix Fund" awaiting the chance to "reclaim United". Indeed, the fans' group estimate they could eventually hold up to £50m when donations are also added to the equation, making them a potentially potent, irritating force.

When the contest started, the attention was firmly on proceedings. The Glazer name wasn't mentioned. Instead there was the usual repertoire of United songs, aided by the team's attacking intent. "Flying high, you'll never die. United will never die," they sang in defiance of Glazer, transforming their wake into something more affirming and defiant. Quite what Glazer and his apparently football-crazy sons, Joel and Avi, made of any of this as they sat in their Florida mansions, or of the performance by his latest investment was another matter. They probably did recognise the country and western standard "Take Me Home Country Roads", however.

United did not quite gel despite the irrepressible (and surely irreplaceable) brio of Wayne Rooney and the occasional, extravagant forays of Cristiano Ronaldo, although they still offered far more than Arsenal or their fans. These are the young players - nothing more than assets in his eyes - whose value Glazer will be well aware of when it came to scrutinising those books and calculating the worth of his takeover.

That deal still amounts to one of the more bizarre corporate gambles, even for a voraciously aggressive raider such as Glazer. But yesterday, in truth, he will have been unfazed by the reaction.

There was just unstinting support for the team he has acquired and that, despite their heartfelt protestations, may eventually hold sway over their emotions.

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