The Glazer family bought Manchester United for £790 million in 2005 and have overseen tremendous success during that period, winning 12 trophies. This included five Premier League titles, an FA Cup, four league cups, a UEFA Champions League, and UEFA Europa League.

However, the club’s large fanbase have never been fond of the Glazers, who have funded the club by putting the team in debt. This includes the initial takeover 18 years ago, for which the Glazers only invested £270 million of their own funds, instantly plunging the club into £550 million worth of debt.

Manchester United were always debt-free before the Glazers’ reign, allowing the club to invest heavily in the transfer market and increase the size of their iconic stadium, Old Trafford.

A recent report from the Daily Mirror indicated that the club’s latest debt figures stand at approximately £515 million after £100 million was eased by a credit facility during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the years, the Glazer ownership has caused a major backlash from the fans, who have frequently hung banners in the ground to display their animosity towards the owners, along with many protests outside Old Trafford.

In 2021, a Premier League fixture between Liverpool and Manchester United was postponed due to the club’s fans breaking into the stadium and protesting against the Glazers on the pitch, just hours before kick-off.

The Glazers recently announced their intention to sell the club, revealing that they are seeking “financial opportunities.” Despite the delight of the fans, selling the club to new owners could have positive and negative connotations for the future of the team.

Forbes reported that the Manchester outfit are worth $4.59 billion but it is believed that the Glazers are looking for offers in the region of $7.25 billion. Additionally, the Glazers have withdrawn an estimated £1.6 billion in dividends, charges, repayments, and share sales, alongside a stadium that is widely agreed to need a revamp, further adding to the costs that will have to be taken on by new owners.

Since the Glazers made their intentions clear to “explore strategic alternatives” at the end of 2022, multiple buyers have been interested in the club. Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani, chairman of the Qatar Islamic Bank, has submitted a bid for a full takeover, which has been reported to be around the region of £5 billion.

INEOS owner, Sir Jim Ratcliffe, who has been a lifelong fan of the Red Devils, has also submitted a bid to take over 69% of the Premier League side, the exact shares that the Glazers currently own. US hedge fund, Elliott Investment Management, is believed to have offered finances for a bid, but the main spotlight has been on Al Thani.

Is a full Qatari purchase of Manchester United a good thing?

The Glazers were often criticized for not investing their own funds into the club, but with the financial backing from Qatar, this would no longer be an issue.

Funds would be readily available to invest in the team, especially with transfers, as seen with other clubs with oil-rich Middle Eastern owners such as Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG). The fans may be happy with this prospect of financial power but it comes with repercussions.

It would symbolize one of the biggest football clubs in the world succumbing to the current issue in the sport, joining neighbors Manchester City and Newcastle United in being owned by some of the world’s biggest oil economies with unlimited wealth to inject into the club, further dampening financial competition between clubs and adding to inflation within the sport.

PSG’s Qatari owners were able to finance the transfer of Neymar in 2017 for an astonishing €222 million, a sum that many clubs in world soccer could not challenge.

Manchester United are a global brand and Al Thani is buying into that with the opportunity of using the club’s global footprint to further promote Qatar across Manchester United products, as he has been linked with the wealth of the Qatari state.

The club will potentially be used for politics. It will be about Qatar and the Middle East, no longer solely about the city of Manchester and the fans.

The Glazers were also not the most ethically righteous, but it is difficult to look past a state which has history and current ties with poor human rights issues, criminalizing homosexuality, treating women poorly, and the exploitation of migrant workers.

Therefore, despite the undisputed financial power Manchester United as a football club will gain from such a takeover, it is worth wondering whether selling your soul for success is justifiable.

That is down to opinion, however, and will no doubt cause divide and debate between fans if Al Thani’s bid is successful.

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