Green and gold army aim to cash in on Beckham

Fans'group hope former player's global appeal will help oust Glazers as Japanese bankers join cause
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The Independent Football

The Manchester United green and gold campaign, which was bolstered last night by the engagement of Japanese global investment bank Nomura by the so-called Red Knights to begin the search for finance to buy out the Glazer family, believe that David Beckham was making a clear expression of support when he donned a scarf in their colours after the 4-0 defeat of Milan on Wednesday night and might be persuaded to invest in a takeover bid.

The Manchester United Supporters Trust (Must) will now attempt to establish contact with Beckham, expressing thanks for delivering them a huge publicity coup and also exploring the possibilities of the former United player at some stage becoming a supporter of their efforts to buy out the Glazers.

Must has also spoken to Eric Cantona, who is "keeping an eye on developments", The Independent understands, though the prospect of Beckham becoming a supporter is something else entirely and not a development they had anticipated when launching the campaign. There is believed to have been contact between Must and Beckham's father Ted, who is likely to have made his son aware of the green and gold campaign before Wednesday's Champions League game.

The green and gold campaigners accept that public support for them from Beckham while he is still playing for another club may not be feasible. But Beckham investing in a buy-out – and becoming a Red Knight – would be possible. David and Victoria Beckham's estimated £125m personal wealth marks them out as potential members of the Knights – the group of wealthy individuals leading attempts to raise the money to oust the Glazers.

Beckham moved to take the sting out of his gesture late on Wednesday night when he said the way United is run was "none of my business", but Must feels there was significance to his willingness to depart the Old Trafford pitch for probably the last time with the Newton Heath colours around his neck. There is genuine hope that he will see the campaign as an opportunity to restore the club to its fans. The idea was even being floated yesterday of using Beckham as a figurehead for some kind of Verdeoro (green and gold in Italian) spin-off.

"He understood what the Newton Heath colours represented because he said so [on Wednesday night]" the Must chief executive, Duncan Drasdo, said yesterday. "I don't think there was any doubt about that. He is contracted to a football club who are a rival so there may not be much he can do actively. But I don't see any reason why he would not be an investor in our proposal. Why would he not be?"

Cantona's commitment to a three-month run as a central actor in the play Face au Paradis in Paris would appear to preclude his direct involvement in the short-term, too, though his interest in FC United, the club formed out of a disenchantment with the way United has been run, and his appearance in the Ken Loach film Looking for Eric marks out his potential interest.

Predictably, Must will have to rule out United club captain Gary Neville from any expression of support. Asked about the decision of Beckham, the best man at his wedding, to wear the scarf, Neville said: "I'm not getting into that. I don't want to get involved in that." Other members of Must include Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, now United's reserve-team manager, as well as former players including Alex Stepney, Willie Morgan and Harry Gregg, though there appears to be no prospect of employees of the club – including Stepney, who works for MUTV, becoming active supporters of green and gold.

Beckham's gesture has cemented his place in the hearts of some United fans, though many were left frustrated by the way he apparently rowed back when he stopped briefly to talk before leaving Old Trafford on Wednesday. One view is that Beckham should either wear the scarf and say why he is doing so – or not do so at all.

Yesterday, Nomura formally announced the start of its work for the Red Knights, which will focus on following up expressions of interest in investing in a takeover. Must says 60 wealthy individuals have made substantial financial commitments to the Goldman Sachs economist Jim O'Neill and other Red Knights, who are seeking to raise between £800m and £1.3bn to buy out the Glazers. The wildly conflicting estimates of the club's value is just one of the difficulties ahead, with Must and the Red Knights aware that overpaying for the club will make the running of it unsustainable. Must are opposed to the idea of debt being used to buy out the Glazers, despite the recent track history of Goldman Sachs making it such an integral part of their way of operating.

Nomura said it would work closely with the Red Knights, Must and other potential investors to "coordinate and formulate the proposal to be put to the Glazer family". Its management team will be led by Guy Dawson and Andrew McNaught, both of whom advised the Manchester United plc board when the club was sold to the Glazers in 2005.

Hand signals: Football and politics

Frederic Kanoute Seville striker showed support for Palestine last year by sporting a T-shirt with the word on in several languages.

Paolo Di Canio Lazio striker made a fascist-style salute in the derby win over Roma in January 2005. He was fined £7,000 for the gesture.

Javier Zanetti In 2004, the Internazionale captain persuaded the club to donate £3,500 to Zapatista rebels in Chile from players' fines.

Robbie Fowler Liverpool striker celebrated a goal in 1997 by revealing a T-shirt in support of striking dockers.

Basque derby The Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad captains carried the banned Basque flag, the Ikurrina, on to the pitch in 1976, displaying opposition to Franco's regime a year after the General passed away.

England The national team gave a Nazi salute before the start of a friendly with Germany in Berlin in 1938, even though Hitler had not turned up.

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