Wayne Rooney’s desperate performance last night for England against Denmark might appear the least of Manchester United’s current problems . The spud-faced number 10 – recently shifted up to a salary of £300,000 a week by his grateful management – is celebrating the approaching autumn of his career by shooting from so far out of the penalty area that the ball normally comes to rest somewhere behind row Y in the stands. He’ll be lucky to make it on the plane to Sao Paolo if he goes on like this.
This season has been one of almost unqualified woe for Man U. They lost their legendary hair-drying manager for a replacement, David Moyes, who it appears doesn’t shout sufficiently loudly at his players to get them to win. The team languishes in 7th place eighteen points behind the leaders. It is one of the few businesses around to have made a Greek outfit look impressive when it lost 2-0 last week to Olympiakos in Athens. The seat receipts and sales of celebratory ouzo alone increased Greek annual GDP by two points that evening.
Manchester United’s lamentable performance on the pitch this season has been noticed by investors. As a result a now record number of City gamblers, sorry investors, are betting against the club’s stock – 10 per cent of investors in Man U currently hold short positions. The legendary City whizz kid and big luncher Crispin Odey took out a £13 million short position on Man U in December last year and looks as if he may cash in big time. The shares have mirrored the team’s fortunes in the Premier League and have lost 14% of their value since early December. If they fail to qualify for next season’s Champions League – a cash cow bar none – it will be a costly embarrassment.
It’s just as well it is impossible to buy shares in the England cricket team bearing in mind the kerfuffle caused by the departure of Kevin Pietersen.
All this is grist to the mill of the I-told-you-so bunch of dour Man U fans who opposed the controversial takeover by the Glazer family in 2005 which loaded the club up with eye-watering amounts of debt. The more cash that has to be forked out in interest the less for new players who, these days, change hands in a bubble market that makes houses in Mayfair appear restrained. Not that Man U are broke. Far from it – they excel at landing massive global sponsorship deals and the 76,000 seats at Old Trafford are spoken for many times over.
Meanwhile, Rooney stumbles on working out how he might spend his fortune. It’s a mark of the madness of the current system that Eric Cantona, when he signed for the team back in 1992, was on a then outrageous £10,000 a week (Bobby Charlton felt pleased with a pat on the head from Sir Matt and a packet of chips for the way home). And they go on about bankers at Barclays on a mere million a year...