A triumphant 24 hours for the Red Knights, the consortium of Manchester United fans keen to buy the club from the much-despised Glazer family. Last night their campaign got a huge PR boost with an implicit show of support from superannuated United old boy David Beckham, football’s biggest publicity magnet. And this morning they confirmed that they’ve appointed Japanese bank Nomura to act as their financial advisers. Since Nomura has worked with United before, and has access to lots of rich Eastern investors, this is quite a coup – and gives the bid some serious impetus. Although it’ll all be for naught if the Glazers refuse to sell…
Nomura advised Manchester United when the Glazers bought the club in 2005, but it seems that the Red Knights aren’t holding that against them – instead they’ve decided that the bank’s in-depth knowledge (apparently the same suits will be working on this deal) adds extra credibility to their cause. Presumably the first job will to be corral the various parties that have expressed an interest in backing the deal; the Times reckons (rather improbably) that 60 people have already pledged between £10m and £20m. And presumably the theory is that Nomura might be able to dig up some more deep-pocketed zillionaires in its Far Eastern heartland.
The anti-Glazer sentiment certainly seems to be growing among the fans – there were noisy protests at last night’s Champions League tie with AC Milan (though since they all showed up and paid to get in, will the Glazers care?). And the Red Knights’ cause got another big boost when ex-United player David Beckham donned a green-and-gold scarf (the colours of the anti-Glazer lobby) as he left the field. Chances are that Becks was just playing to the gallery (being a past master of the publicity stunt) but it guaranteed some more column inches.
Of course there’s one very big caveat to all this: the Glazers continue to insist that the club isn’t for sale. And as long as they can continue to treat the club like their own private cash machine (albeit with the help of a growing mountain of debt), they’ve arguably got very little incentive to flog it. So presumably, the only thing likely to bring about a change of tune is if the Red Knights come up with an outrageously large bid – and if they’re going to have to pay way over-the-odds, it’s a bit hard to see why all these canny millionaires would jump at the chance to finance it.
So a deal still looks a long way off. On the other hand, it looks a lot more likely now than it did a week ago...
In today's bulletin:
Booming Waitrose powers John Lewis to bumper profits
Man United bidders bolster attack by signing Nomura
Fancy a pint before work? Wetherspoons to open at 7am
Editor's blog: Go easy on the kids
The phone that will tell your boss exactly what you're doing