His kingdom for a horse?25 January 2010

Kingdom for a horse

To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, it would require a heart of stone not to laugh at the (near) death of Manchester United.

Chief Executive David Gill’s successful pitch of a £500m bond secured on the club may have eased the pressure from the super-high interest loans for which the owners are personally liable, but selling off the family silver (Cristiano Ronaldo, price £81m) is something you can only do once.

With empty seats appearing at the “theatre of dreams”, an ignominious FA cup exit and other intimations of footballing mortality, England’s best-supported club is struggling to maintain its outward swagger as, like a premier-league Lehman Brothers, it is devoured within by a toxic combination of excessive debt and wildly irresponsible assumptions of future success.

What is sometimes forgotten however is the role Sir Alex Ferguson has played in all this. Against the backdrop of this Saturday’s “We love United. We hate the Glazers” protest, his programme notes appealed for unity whilst admitting: “I’m not slow to express disapproval myself – even in the boardroom.”

But wasn’t it Sir Alex’s expressing disapproval at the races, not the boardroom that caused all this? His acrimonious dispute with the Irish businessman John Magnier  over stud fees for their horse led to the sale of shares that resulted in the Glazer’s successful purchase of the club.

My kingdom for a horse? While the Glazers decide, financially, to be or not to be, the legions of Manchester United’s non-fans can only watch, wait, and like dear old Oscar, laugh.

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