Glazer courts fans by backing old guard

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The Independent Online

Manchester United's prospective new owner Malcolm Glazer gave Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill a clear sign yesterday that he would be prepared to work with the two men in the short-term rather than make controversial changes within the club when he finally comes to take control of Old Trafford.

Manchester United's prospective new owner Malcolm Glazer gave Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill a clear sign yesterday that he would be prepared to work with the two men in the short-term rather than make controversial changes within the club when he finally comes to take control of Old Trafford.

In their first statement since they bought J P McManus and John Magnier's decisive 28.7 per cent stake, the Glazer family, who now own 74.81 per cent of the club, said that they would "work with the current management, players and fans to ensure Manchester United continue to develop and achieve even greater success."

The remarks were part of an official document that was short on detail about how the Glazers would make their new business model for United work but briefly outlined the terms of their £812m finance package to take control. They will reach the crucial 75 per cent mark on Monday which will allow them to take the club off the Stock Exchange and borrow against its value.

With the club readying themselves for Glazer's final assumption of power - he is now obliged to offer all shareholders a price of 300p a share - the American and his advisers have attempted to head off some of the fierce opposition from fans by allying themselves with the current club hierarchy. While there has been no indication from Ferguson himself yet how he considers the new regime at United, the 63-year-old is unlikely to be an early target for an ownership who realise they have no credibility with large sections of the support.

The United manager did not give his normal Friday press briefing yesterday, but his assistant Carlos Queiroz said that the coaching staff would not allow the dramatic events of the last few days to affect their preparation for tomorrow's game against Southampton and next Saturday's FA Cup final. He said: "We are not worried. We are just focussed on what happens on the pitch. We are not concerned with those things.

"There are no concerns about the manager's willingness to stay on and fight this through. We are professionals and the only thing that counts for us is the next game and that is what we are concentrating our minds on."

Chief executive Gill has proved himself to be an unwavering opponent of the Glazers but the announcement from Joel Glazer, who claims to be a United fan, suggested that he would be prepared, in the short-term at least, to work with the same man who held off the American's takeover for the last nine months.

Yesterday, Gill and the five-man plc board met to discuss their futures and following that the chief executive met with around 300 staff to explain to them what the early implications were of the Glazer bid. He reassured them that their pension and employment rights would be protected and told them that they would be kept aware of any major decisions.

The financing of Glazer's United takeover values the club at £790m, with a breakdown of £272m investment from the family itself, £275m in preference shares and £265m in bank debts. The interest payments alone on that level of borrowing, would be around £46m a year. In January, United's last six-month profit report, after tax, was £9m, down from £18.7m the previous year, and their annual results in November are expected to continue that downward trend.

The document also details the company, Red Football Partnership, which has seen set up to buy United. The club is now owned by a company that is based in an office suite in the Nevada town of Reno.

With the supporters planning more protests at tomorrow's end-of-season match against Southampton, the Shareholders United group said that "93 per cent of United fans were totally opposed to Malcolm Glazer's involvement."

The group's vice-chairman Sean Bones said: "He has to launch some kind of charm offensive and this is probably the start. But I doubt very much anyone will be taken in and our fight to get rid of him continues."

The Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger provoked an outraged reaction among United fans when he suggested yesterday that the Glazer takeover could prove good news for United. He said: "I feel you have to be open minded and he could be good for the club.

"At Arsenal we have an advantage, especially in transfer situations, because we are a private company. I can do a deal in 24 hours because I do not have to consult so many people compared to a plc. If Glazer comes in, then they will be able to react quickly as well."

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