LONDON — Manchester United fans paid muted respect to the soccer team's owner, Malcolm Glazer, who died Wednesday, as deep resentment still lingers over his debt-ladened takeover.
Man U fans staged mass protests and burned season ticket forms when the American businessman and owner of the NFL's Buccaneers took over the English soccer club in 2005. Disgruntled supporters even set up a new club called United of Manchester.
A popular chant heard at United games looked forward to Glazer's passing, and although attitudes softened as the Premier League giant enjoyed one of its most successful spells, supporters remained angry about the soccer club's finances.
Manchester United Supporters' Trust vice chair Sean Bones said: "It would be inappropriate for me to make any comment about the death of Malcolm Glazer as I didn't know him or his family personally.
"However, as a supporter, I am aware of the detrimental effect the Glazers have had on the … club and the huge debt that has been placed on Manchester United.
"Malcolm Glazer wasn't a board member, and his children are on the board, so I don't think that situation changes much."
Fans took to club forums to call for a respectful reaction.
One user on fan site RedCafe wrote: "say what you will … but he presided over the most successful period in the clubs history", while another urged fellow supporters to "keep it sensible", saying the death was "bound to be a flash point for some fans."
"I would hope most of our fans will be able to retain some level of civility, in spite of the general feeling towards what he and his family have done with regards to the clubs' finances," wrote one supporter, while another reflected on "a very strange year for our club."
Others highlighted Glazer's successful partnership with legendary coach Alex Ferguson, who was able to carry out his job with little boardroom interference.
"The thoughts of everyone at Manchester United are with the family tonight,'' Manchester United said in a statement.
Jim White, a columnist for the Telegraph newspaper in London, wrote:
"As chairman and sole owner, the late American businessman had no concern about being a custodian of the club's history, tradition and cultural standing. He was not a fan. He had never thrilled to the genius of George Best, or leapt out of his seat at a Ryan Giggs run. Not once did he even visit (Old Trafford). Which is odd. You might have thought a modicum of curiosity would compel him to take a cursory look. What attracted him to the most profitable football business in England was straightforward: He was in it for the money.
"Malcolm Glazer had many charitable interests at home in Florida. He was also a family man, and his passing will be mourned. But he was an owner who should never have been allowed into English football. For sure, he did nothing illegal in his takeover. He may have been canny and cunning, devious, too. But he never acted outside the law. He accumulated shares on the open market with ruthless dispatch."
Glazer had largely handed control of the soccer club to two of his sons, Joel and Avram, as his health deteriorated.
Despite winning five Premier League titles and a Champions League trophy during his reign, the club currently finds itself in desperate need of an overhaul after finishing seventh last season, the first without Ferguson.
Gavin McOwan of the Guardian newspaper wrote:
"Malcolm Glazer was the most ruthless of the group of foreign owners who bought into the Premier League, effectively using Manchester United's own money to buy itself, so that vast amounts drained away in interest, fees and charges. … United fans despised Glazer for saddling one of the world's most successful and financially stable sports clubs with debt. …
"It was a reckless, shameless, unscrupulous purchase. Yet it was entirely legal. And — in a manner which Glazer knew would never be allowed by American sports administrators — the Premier League stood by and let it happen. With his success, Glazer effectively demonstrated to the rest of the international trading world that English football was run by those asleep at the wheel. In his wake came a host of foreign businessmen whose intent was not investment but asset stripping."
One of those owners was Pakistani-born American Shahid Khan, who owns the NFL's Jaguars and also purchased Fulham of the Premier League.
"I will remember Malcolm Glazer as someone whose influence made a lasting impact on both ends of the Atlantic in the world's two greatest sports leagues, the National Football League and the Barclays Premier League," Khan said in reaction to the passing of Glazer.