The green and gold movement is gathering pace on the terraces at Old Trafford, and by far the most prominent evidence of the growing support was at Wembley last weekend for the Carling Cup Final.
The Carling Cup has meant more to United this year; the semi-final, of course, was less about the Carling Cup, and more about the Manchester derby. It was about a competitive City side looking to win a trophy for the first time in 35 years, ultimately at United’s expense. Winning the Carling Cup didn’t matter to United. Stopping City winning something, however, did. Although I think everyone knows that this is just postponing the inevitable, United fans will settle for that for the time being.
The Cup Final itself, on the other hand, was about both the past and the future. It was about the fans looking back to the times before United was a multi-national business enterprise supported by more people in more countries than any other club. It was about roots, community and tradition. It was about football rather than business, about 0161 rather than 001. On Sunday, there were members of the Glazer family in attendance and they couldn’t help but notice what was happening in the stands, and they wouldn’t have liked what they heard.
The fans were behind the team, no doubt about it. There was a bigger issue for them though, which was to let the world know that Manchester United isn’t there just to carry debt for cash strapped owners. They want Manchester United returned to the fans, so that those same fans will once again have a voice.
Now Keith Harris, the Chairman of Seymour Pierce, and Jim O’Neill, the chief economist at Goldman Sachs, are putting together a consortium to attempt to wrestle control from the Glazers. Harris has put some of the premier leagues wealthiest chairmen in place, overseeing the last takeovers of, among others, Chelsea and Aston Villa. He is a local boy done good, having been brought up in Stockport, and empathises with the paying supporter. The irony though is that, in his role of middle man to the money men, he has helped create a business blue print which has spiralled totally out of control.
Harris also suffered in his capacity of Chairman of the Football League, when he got his fingers badly burned with the collapse of ITV digital soon after he accepted the post. His failure to recover any cash back from the ITV digital owners, and then though the courts, led to his resignation. After being involved in one of the biggest crises that football has faced, and one from which some of the smaller football clubs are still struggling with, Harris is a man with a point to prove. Let's just hope that the Red Knights consortium succeeds in returning Manchester United to its fans; they want their club back.