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No Smoke Without Fire at Old Trafford?

Glazers Out

As Manchester United’s hopes for a record beating 19th league title fizzled out at Old Trafford on Sunday, smoke from the dying embers of the season could be seen around the ground by many fans. At least that is how the romanticised version of events may be interpreted.

Instead what we saw was the smoke from a smoke-bomb, dropped outside the megastore, the latest in a long line of protests by Manchester United fans over the Glazer ownership of the club.

Old Trafford on Sunday was more the theatre of broken dreams. The fans and management of the club had already, in their hearts, accepted that Chelsea would beat Wigan Pathetic to claim the title. That they did so in such emphatic fashion was less a statement of Chelsea’s right to be champions, and more a statement on the rather timid showing of Wigan, who once again travelled to London only to surrender in the meekest of fashions. If Liverpool’s capitulation at Anfield was expected, then Wigan’s shambolic efforts were equally about as unexpected as Didier Drogba sulking like a baby for the rest of the first half when he wasn’t allowed to take the first penalty. Chelsea were 1-10 with Betfair at the start of the game, United were 7-1.

You can bet very few punters hoped that they’d have a nice little betting bonus by backing United. They were ultimately proven right. It does United’s fans great credit to say that they reacted to the not-unexpected events at Stamford Bridge with a shrug of the shoulders and a ‘That’s Life’ attitude that would have done Esther Rantzen proud.

The home support was magnificent throughout the game, reflecting perhaps on a season that just wasn’t meant to be, and the appreciative applause given to the players on their lap of honour was a credit to the club and in sharp contrast to the moronic hoards at Luton and Grimsby, who reacted to their respective defeats by somewhat predictably resorting to abuse, anger and violence.

United fans ire was instead directed at the boardroom, though no representative of the Glazer fraternity was in place to hear it due to the cloud of ash disrupting transatlantic aviation routes. Whether the ash was from Iceland, or the smouldering ire of Manchester United fans remains unclear.

The fall-out from the Glazer ownership continues to cast its own toxic cloud of debt over Old Trafford. The scale of the debt, how it has been passed onto the club and the unwillingness of the owners to even acknowledge the fears of the MUST, let alone deal with them is the root cause of many fans grief.

Green and Gold scarves were the collective uniform at Old Trafford, scarves which spoke of their unquestioned support of the team and the shared anger at the Glazer ownership. Cards with “Go Glazers Out” were more common than an inept Liverpool performance. The Red Knight, astride the gallant steed of a billion and a half pounds of investment, cannot come to the rescue soon enough.

So United didn’t lift the title this time around. Unlike some of their rivals down the M62 however, the Red Devil’s fans will know that they will, once again, be there challenging for the top honours once again next season, regardless of the level of debt and the blinkered attitude of the board. The fans will still support their team in vast numbers and the Champions League and Premier League will be realistic targets. From the dying embers of one season, rises the prospect of another. Life at Old Trafford goes on…

Every cloud has a silver lining, even a smoke-filled, debt-ridden toxic one.

Photo: Reuters

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