Prominent Manchester United fans' groups have called for supporters to boycott Saturday's Premiership match against West Bromwich Albion.
The "Not For Sale Coalition", comprising the Independent Manchester United Supporters Association, Shareholders United, plus the Red Devils' three major fanzines, is backing the call as it cranks up its campaign against Malcolm Glazer's takeover bid.
Apart from sending a signal to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner that supporters do not want to be part of a club he owns, the group also believes it will be sending a message to the board emphasising the widespread disgust at recent ticket price rises.
"This is the last Saturday matchday opportunity for supporters to let any potential new owners, and the current board, know that supporters loyalty can not be taken for granted," said the IMUSA chairman, Jules Spencer. "We realise it's asking a lot for people who have bought tickets not to use them, but we feel we have to take a stand, not only on Glazer, but also on the current board's obscene ticket price rises."
Supporters who do not wish to take the ultimate step of refusing to enter Old Trafford have been asked to join a protest march to the stadium which leaves the nearby cricket ground 45 minutes before kick-off.
Two previous marches, prior to the Arsenal and Milan games this season, have been major successes, showing the depth of opposition to Glazer's potential among rank-and-file supporters. What the demonstrations have not managed to do is put the 78-year-old's ambitions to own the club on hold.
Glazer is in discussions with major backers JP Morgan and NM Rothschild over whether to proceed with a formal £800m offer prior to the "put-up-or-shut-up" deadline on 17 May imposed by the Takeover Panel.
Although the American has yet to comment publicly, it is widely expected he will plough on despite the major reservations of the United board, which believes Glazer's business plan is "aggressive" and the deal requires too much debt. However, as the board has described the potential 300p-per-share offer as "fair", any bid would have to be presented to shareholders.
Shareholders United is already working with investment bank Nomura in an effort to block Glazer, although the future of the club is eventually set to be determined by Irish racing tycoons John Magnier and J P McManus, who, through their Cubic Expression investment vehicle, own a 28.9 per cent stake in the club.
United midfielder Darren Fletcher is convinced the club can ease the pain of another barren Premiership campaign with a win over Chelsea that will have major implications for next season's title race.
Fletcher said: "We have been hurt by what has happened this year because we see ourselves challenging for trophies and the players will carry that disappointment throughout the summer. But the Chelsea game is really important to us. We are looking to get a little psychological edge on them which we can take into the beginning of next season.
"If we can turn in a good performance and get the result we are looking for and then do the same in the FA Cup final, it could well have a bearing on next season."Reuse content