United and the Number Game

From past few hours I was busy talking about numbers and Manchester United. Be it the New Jersey numbers assigned or the United’s IPO and debt details. First things first, United have a new number 7. After Owen’s departure, everyone was curious about who will get the legendary jersey. Shinji Kagawa signed for United and was the first one to be offered that jersey, he respectfully and rightly so, refused the offer. After Nani, the number seven was now for Antonio Valencia. Having won the players’ and fans’ player of the season, as well as our goal for the season, he seemed like an obvious choice with Kagawa and Powell being the new #26 and #25 respectively.

Image Credit: ManUtd.com

Steve Coppell V 2.0?

Ever since I saw Antonio play I couldn’t help comparing him to Stevie Coppell. I found striking relevance in their style of playing, No-nonsense, no-fancy stuff; just out and out winger hugging the touchline and delivering crosses with supreme pace and an ace in tormenting the full backs.
There’s a rare, armour-plated beauty to be savoured in watching Antonio Valencia in full flow; a primal sadism stirred by the knowledge that, whether he needs to go around or through an opponent, he’s almost certainly getting by. Stop, start, fake, repeat until an opening arises. He can twist blood and bend reputations – just ask Ashley Cole, the only player to repeatedly shackle Cristiano Ronaldo, but as yet unable to match Valencia whenever United and Chelsea meet. Believe it or not Coppell too has his share among the other more majestic and more famous united number 7s like Cantona, Best, Robson, Bechkam and CR.

Is Valencia special enough to be a united number 7?

The Magnificent 7

It’s a fact that Antonio doesn’t have the element of flair or he has never been that mysterious or legend like figure compared to the number 7s united has seen. But he’s effective. There is a different rush among the fans to see a player speeding down the touchline skipping challenges and eventually delivering a fantastic cross for the players in the box. Valencia can provide that. I may sound a bit sceptical but after CR, the number 7 void was never filled. Owen was a big name, sounds good enough but we all know how much he played and how much the number was given justice. And after him Valencia was the best option United had. I would rather not assign a legendary number 7 jersey season in season out just because it needs to be assigned to someone. Owen got it after CR just because someone had to and the same thing happened with Valencia. Antonio has arguably been the best offensive player after Rooney but in my opinion it doesn’t justify handing him a legendary jersey. The fact that Valencia once had a number 25 makes me sceptical about him now having a number 7 jersey. Anyways, if Stevie Coppell is good enough for Number 7, Antonio Valencia is good enough too.

The Tragedy of Number 18

PS18/PS22

Ashley young was assigned the number 18 which belonged to Paul Scholes; obviously being a PS18 fan-boy, I didn’t like it. But Scholes returned and was in a 22 number jersey which he had worn before. But as the new season arrived I expected Scholsey to get the number he had for 15 years back but nothing like that happen.

Retiring a number

Retiring a number for the legends of club or country has been done by many. But I don’t remember United doing that ever for any player. In my opinion number 11 and 18 should be retired just to serve as a token of appreciation for two lads in the face of Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes. However I doubt if that will happen. You can’t retire a number like 7 or 10 because it carries a Legacy but one can always create an exception for the less fancy numbers like 18. In English football the numbers aren’t retired that easily, it mostly done when a professional loses his life due to some tragic reason the most notable example being that of West Ham United retiring the number 6 in the memory of the legendary Bobby Moore even that was done in 2008 – 15 years after Bobby’s death.
Baggio10, Maldini3, Moore6, Baresi6, Cryuff14, Larson17, Pele10 (for NYC not Brazil) etc. are the best examples of retiring a number as a token of appreciation by the club or country to the respective player. Number 12 is interestingly retired by so many clubs in the world; it is reserved for the fans, who are considered as the 12th man for the team

The Debt

LUHG

This is where I stop talking about football and start talking about the money. They aren’t mutually exclusive by any means. When you battle out with the likes of City, Barcelona, Real Madrid etc. money is a vital factor. United was debt free for so many years but all that changed after Glazers took over in 2005. Glazers got the club for £800m of which they borrowed £525m from banks etc. Till this date Manchester United has paid more than £500m in interest, bank charges and fees since 2005. If this continues it could adversely affect their financial health and competitive position in England as well as in Europe. The Glazer’s have been leeching the club ever since they took over the club. With the success that United had, the flaws were always overshadowed. David Gill and Sir Alex have always kept a lid on things whenever it came to the owners of the club. It’s an understandable situation from their point of view but the two guns have managed to keep the club running and in competition despite the debt; but it can’t be ignored for long.

United fans like me have always been vocal about the Glazers. There was even a 1 billion pounds bid by a set of wealthy true United fans dubbed as – ‘Red Knights’ to buy the club from the Glazers but it didn’t work. The US family spends the equivalent of more than £250,000 a day from under Club’s name. Also, of all the money which comes in through the global and regional sponsors, retail, merchandising and product licensing, leagues, tickets, adverts etc. a major chunk goes in the daily expenses of the Glazer family and not the club, since the family regularly take dividends out. Taking profits is a thing which every owner deserves, it’s a fact that the glazers are all in the money business; they don’t care about football or Manchester United or the fans. But there is a difference in making money from the most popular football club in the world and making it dry.
Most fans aren’t aware about the situation, the financial results coming out every quarter are horrifying and it doesn’t take an Einstein to figure it out that the owners are leeching the club. And it’s just a matter of time when the debts will start reflecting over the very surface. Economic stability is important for any professional football club and with United it’s even more important, some fans fail to see things beyond the transfer budget offered by the owners, season in season out. But it isn’t enough. A line should be drawn somewhere. LUHG . (click here to read more)

The IPO

Manchester United has a global fan base of 659 million; almost half of United’s supporters are in the Asia-Pacific region. But United has picked the New York Stock Exchange to make its stock market debut, a fact that I fail to understand. Why of all countries, one would go to a country where is game isn’t popular and is even called by a different name? Any Asian or UK market would have been a better choice. The Glazers have reorganised the ownership of United, via the Cayman Islands, so they can realise cash from investors while retaining control of the club. It’s clear what the Glazers are trying to do here, Cayman Islands? Tax haven? Seriously? Anyways, the club is hoping to raise 100million USD as its initial offering. To reduce that indebtedness we sadly have come to this extent that we need to find outside investors who are willing to buy the shares while United continue to dry under the Glazers.

It’s strange on how one hand we think more about small numbers like 7, 18 or 11 and little about big numbers like £423m. It’s fair to say that United have some numbers, which show it’s greatness and some numbers it just can’t get rid of thanks to Malcolm Irving Glazer.

– By Ravi Sadrani

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