The first Joel: Glazers make the right noises

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The Independent Football

As was always going to be the case, Malcolm Glazer, the paterfamilias, stayed not just in the background, but out of the country, leaving his son Joel to do the tour of Football Association, Premier League, Department of Culture, Media and Sport, Old Trafford and, finally, no less an institution than MUTV: "This is another wonderful thing about Man-chester United, their own channel and you guys do a fabulous job," Joel said.

Just as Rupert Murdoch would not expect too hot a grilling on Sky News, so the interview shown on Friday evening by the channel the Glazers now own was more Parky than Paxman, but most of the right questions were asked, even if the answers were not followed up as tenaciously as they might have been.

Steve Bower, the quiz inquisitor, is not a man to demand 14 times: "Are you putting the club into debt and gambling with its assets?" He asked once and received a response as calm and smooth as all of Glazer Jnr's others, the core of which was: "Our family personally has invested over £270 million. A lot of businesses have debt. Debt can mean different things to different people, but I can assure everybody that the structure that was put in place is a structure we're extremely comfortable with.

"People should not worry about some of the crazy stuff that's been portrayed in the papers or in the media. People can throw things out that can sound scary, but when you understand it and deal with the reality you can understand that there are certain benefits to the current ownership structure that we have."

Understandably, this was not specific enough to satisfy the more strident critics, whose PR over the past few months has often outshone that of the Glazers and their professional London advisers. A consortium of groups claiming to represent more than 50,000 United fans all over the world immediately hit back with allegations that the family had made similar assurances when taking over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and then allegedly reneged on a promise to pay half the cost of a new stadium in Tampa, leaving taxpayers to fund the whole thing.

This jibe that the Glazers cannot be trusted will be a central plank of the dissidents' case, laid alongside the argument that a £650m debt cannot be serviced at the same time as rebuilding the team without forcing supporters to pay through the nose.

Yet Joel Glazer was able to offer reassurance, already given to Sir Alex Ferguson, that there will be "no cap" on transfer spending and that "if the manager feels it's the right situation, you have to facilitate that".

In demolishing suggestions that the stadium might be sold, Sir Bobby Charlton sacked, or the collective Premier League agreement on television fees rent asunder, the new owners have also made the right noises.

So, merchandise boycotts or not, Old Trafford will be full on whichever day those television rights holders at Sky Sports decide United must play their opening home game against Aston Villa in seven weeks' time. There will be some new faces in the crowd, however, especially if it happens to be at 3pm on the Saturday afternoon, for FC United, the breakaway club founded by refuseniks on the AFC Wimbledon model, will be up and running by then with pledges from more than 3,000 fans to watch them.

The club have been accepted into Division Two of something officially known as the Moore & Co Construction Solicitors (North West Counties) League and will announce an approved ground-share next week. On Saturday week they play a first friendly, at Leigh RMI, and the following Saturday visit AFC Wimbledon for a meeting of kindred spirits in the Supporters Direct Trust Cup.

Symbolically, on the same day Manchester United will be playing thousands of miles away in Hong Kong on what a rock band might call the Sell More Shirts Tour.