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Sunday, August 22, 2010

History
Early years (1878–1945)
Main article: History of Manchester United F.C. (1878–1945)
refer to caption
A chart showing the progress of Manchester United F.C. through the English football league system from joining as Newton Heath in 1892–93 to 2007–08

Manchester United was formed in 1878 as Newton Heath LYR Football Club by the Carriage and Wagon department of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway depot at Newton Heath.[12] The team initially played games against other departments and rail companies, but by 1888 the club had become a founding member of The Combination, a regional football league. However, following the league's dissolution after just one season, Newton Heath joined the newly formed Football Alliance, which ran for three seasons before being merged with the Football League. This resulted in the club starting the 1892–93 season in the First Division, by which time it had become independent of the rail company and dropped the "LYR" from its name.[12] After just two seasons, the club was relegated to the Second Division.[12]
A black-and-white photograph of a football team lining up before a match. Four players, wearing dark shirts, light shorts and dark socks, are seated. Four more players are standing immediately behind them, and three more are standing on a higher level on the back row. Two men in suits are standing on either side of the players.
The Manchester United team at the start of the 1905–06 season, in which they were runners-up in the Second Division

In January 1902, with debts of £2,670 – equivalent to £210,000 as of 2010[13] – the club was served with a winding-up order.[14] Captain Harry Stafford found four local businessmen, including John Henry Davies (who became club president), each willing to invest £500 in return for a direct interest in running the club and who subsequently changed the name;[15] on 24 April 1902, Manchester United was officially born.[16][17] Under Ernest Mangnall, who assumed managerial duties in 1903, the team finished as Second Division runners-up in 1906 and secured promotion to the First Division, which they won in 1908 – the club's first league title. The following season began with victory in the first ever Charity Shield[18] and ended with the club's first FA Cup title. Manchester United won the First Division for the second time in 1911, but at the end of the following season, Mangnall left the club to join Manchester City.[19]

In 1922, three years after the resumption of football following the First World War, the club was relegated to the Second Division, where it remained until regaining promotion in 1925. Relegated again in 1931, Manchester United became a yo-yo club, achieving its all-time lowest position of 20th place in the Second Division in 1934. Following the death of the club's principal benefactor, J. H. Davies, in October 1927, the club's finances deteriorated to the extent that Manchester United would likely have gone bankrupt had it not been for James W. Gibson, who, in December 1931, invested £2,000 and assumed control of the club.[20] In the 1938–39 season, the last year of football before the Second World War, the club finished 14th in the First Division.[20]
Busby years (1945–1969)
Main article: History of Manchester United F.C. (1945–1969)
A black-and-white photograph of several people in suits and overcoats on the steps of an aircraft.
The Busby Babes in Denmark in 1955

In October 1945, the impending resumption of football led to the managerial appointment of Matt Busby, who demanded an unprecedented level of control over team selection, player transfers and training sessions.[21] Busby led the team to second-place league finishes in 1947, 1948 and 1949, and to FA Cup victory in 1948. In 1952, the club won the First Division, its first league title for 41 years.[22] With an average age of 22, the media labelled the back-to-back title winning side of 1956 "the Busby Babes", a testament to Busby's faith in his youth players.[23] In 1957, Manchester United became the first English team to compete in the European Cup, despite objections from The Football League, who had denied Chelsea the same opportunity the previous season.[24] En route to the semi-final, which they lost to Real Madrid, the team recorded a 10–0 victory over Belgian champions Anderlecht, which remains the club's biggest victory on record.[25]
A stone tablet, inscribed with the image of a football pitch and several names. It is surrounded by a stone border in the shape of a football stadium. Above the tablet is a wooden carving of two men holding a large wreath.
A plaque at Old Trafford in honour of the players who died in the Munich air disaster

The following season, on the way home from a European Cup quarter-final victory against Red Star Belgrade, the aircraft carrying the Manchester United players, officials and journalists crashed while attempting to take off after refuelling in Munich, Germany. The Munich air disaster of 6 February 1958 claimed 23 lives, including those of eight players – Geoff Bent, Roger Byrne, Eddie Colman, Duncan Edwards, Mark Jones, David Pegg, Tommy Taylor and Billy Whelan – and injured several more.[26][27]

Reserve team manager Jimmy Murphy took over as manager while Busby recovered from his injuries and the club's makeshift side reached the FA Cup final, which they lost to Bolton Wanderers. In recognition of the team's tragedy, UEFA invited the club to compete in the 1958–59 European Cup alongside eventual League champions Wolverhampton Wanderers. Despite approval from the FA, the Football League determined that the club should not enter the competition, since it had not qualified.[28][29] Busby rebuilt the team through the 1960s by signing players such as Denis Law and Pat Crerand, who combined with the next generation of youth players – including George Best – to win the FA Cup in 1963. The following season, they finished second in the league, then won the title in 1965 and 1967. In 1968, Manchester United became the first English club to win the European Cup, beating Benfica 4–1 in the final[30] with a team that contained three European Footballers of the Year: Bobby Charlton, Denis Law and George Best.[31] Matt Busby resigned as manager in 1969 and was replaced by the reserve team coach, former Manchester United player Wilf McGuinness.[32]
1969–1986
Main article: History of Manchester United F.C. (1969–1986)
A smiling man with dark hair wearing a white, green and blue tracksuit top over a blue shirt. He is holding a washbag under his right arm.
Bryan Robson was the captain of Manchester United for 12 years, longer than any other player.[33]

Following an eighth-place finish in the 1969–70 season and a poor start to the 1970–71 season, Busby was persuaded to temporarily resume managerial duties, and McGuinness returned to his position as reserve team coach. In June 1971, Frank O'Farrell was appointed as manager, but lasted less than 18 months before being replaced by Tommy Docherty in December 1972.[34] Docherty saved Manchester United from relegation that season, only to see them relegated in 1974; by that time the trio of Best, Law, and Charlton had left the club.[30] The team won promotion at the first attempt and reached the FA Cup final in 1976, but were beaten by Southampton. They reached the final again in 1977, beating Liverpool 2–1. Docherty was dismissed shortly afterwards, following the revelation of his affair with the club physiotherapist's wife.[35][32]

Dave Sexton replaced Docherty as manager in the summer of 1977. Despite major signings, including Joe Jordan, Gordon McQueen, Gary Bailey, and Ray Wilkins, the team failed to achieve any significant results; they finished in the top two in 1979–80 and lost to Arsenal in the 1979 FA Cup Final. Sexton was dismissed in 1981, even though the team won the last seven games under his direction.[36] He was replaced by Ron Atkinson, who immediately broke the British record transfer fee to sign Bryan Robson from West Bromwich Albion. Under Atkinson, Manchester United won the FA Cup twice in three years – in 1983 and 1985. In 1985–86, after 13 wins and two draws in its first 15 matches, the club was favourite to win the league, but finished in fourth place. The following season, with the club in danger of relegation by November, Atkinson was dismissed.[37]
Ferguson years (1986–present)
Main article: History of Manchester United F.C. (1986–present)
The torso and head of a grey-haired white man. He is wearing spectacles and a black coat.
Alex Ferguson has been manager of Manchester United since November 1986.

Alex Ferguson and his assistant Archie Knox arrived from Aberdeen on the day of Atkinson's dismissal,[38] and guided the club to an 11th-place finish in the league.[39] Despite a second-place finish in 1987–88, the club was back in 11th place the following season.[40] Reportedly on the verge of being dismissed, victory over Crystal Palace in the 1990 FA Cup Final replay (after a 3–3 draw) saved Ferguson's career.[41][42] The following season, Manchester United claimed its first Cup Winners' Cup title and competed in the 1991 UEFA Super Cup, beating European Cup holders Red Star Belgrade 1–0 in the final at Old Trafford. A second consecutive League Cup final appearance followed in 1992, in which the team beat Nottingham Forest 1–0 at Wembley.[37] In 1993, the club won its first league title since 1967, and a year later, for the first time since 1957, it won a second consecutive title – alongside the FA Cup – to complete the first "Double" in the club's history.[37]
A white football player with short, dark, greying hair. He is wearing a red shirt, white shorts, white socks and white football boots. He is running and has puffed-out cheeks.
Ryan Giggs is the most decorated player in English football history.[43]

Manchester United's 1998–99 season was the most successful in English club football history as they became the first team to win the Premier League, FA Cup and UEFA Champions League – "The Treble" – in the same season.[44] Losing 1–0 going into injury time in the 1999 UEFA Champions League Final, Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjær scored late goals to claim a dramatic victory over Bayern Munich, in what is considered one of the greatest comebacks of all time.[45] The club also won the Intercontinental Cup after beating Palmeiras 1–0 in Tokyo.[46] Ferguson was subsequently knighted for his services to football.[47]

In 2000, Manchester United competed in the inaugural FIFA Club World Championship in Brazil,[48] and won the league again in the 1999–2000 and 2000–01 seasons. The team finished as runners-up in 2001–02, before regaining the title in 2002–03. They won the 2003–04 FA Cup, beating Millwall 3–0 in the final at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.[49] In the 2005–06 season Manchester United failed to qualify for the knockout phase of the UEFA Champions League for the first time in over a decade, but recovered to secure a second-place league finish and victory over Wigan Athletic in the 2006 Football League Cup Final. The club regained the Premier League in the 2006–07 and 2007–08 seasons, and completed the European double by beating Chelsea 6–5 on penalties in the 2008 UEFA Champions League Final in Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium. Ryan Giggs made a record 759th appearance for the club in this game, overtaking previous record holder Bobby Charlton.[50] In December 2008, the club won the 2008 FIFA Club World Cup and followed this with the 2008–09 Football League Cup, and its third successive Premier League title.[51][52] That summer, Cristiano Ronaldo was sold to Real Madrid for a world record £80 million.[53] In 2010, Manchester United defeated Aston Villa 2–1 at Wembley to retain the League Cup, its first successful defence of a knockout cup competition.[54]
Crest and colours
A football crest. In the centre is a shield with a ship in full sail above a red field with three diagonal black lines. Either side of the shield are two stylised roses, separating two scrolls. The upper scroll is red and reads "Manchester United" in black type, while the lower scroll is white with "Football Club" also written in black.
Manchester United badge in the 1960s

The club crest is derived from the Manchester City Council coat of arms, although all that remains of it on the current crest is the ship in full sail.[55] The devil stems from the club's nickname "The Red Devils"; it was included on club programmes and scarves in the 1960s, and incorporated into the club crest in 1970, although the crest was not included on the chest of the shirt until 1973 (unless the team was playing in a Cup Final).[55]

The earliest known photograph of the Newton Heath team, taken in 1892, shows the players wearing a red-and-white quartered jerseys and blue shorts.[56] Between 1894–96, the players wore distinctive green and gold jerseys with laced collars,[56] which were replaced in 1896 by white shirts, which were worn with blue shorts.[56] After its name change in 1902, the club colours were changed to red shirts, white shorts, and black socks, which has become the standard Manchester United home kit.[56] Very few changes were made to the shirt until 1922 when players wore a white shirt bearing a deep red "V" around the neck until 1927, similar to the shirt worn in the 1909 FA Cup Final.[56] In 1934, players wore maroon shirts with white hoops, but the following season the red shirt was recalled after the club's lowest ever league placing of 20th in the Second Division.[56] The current home kit is a red shirt with a white collar, worn with white shorts and black socks.[57]

The Manchester United away strip has more often than not been a white shirt, black shorts and white socks, but there have been several exceptions. These include the navy blue shirt with silver horizontal pinstripes worn during the 1999–2000 season,[58] and the current away kit which is a black shirt with a blue chevron, with black shorts and socks, both with blue trim.[59] An all-grey away kit worn during the 1995–96 season was dropped after just two games because players claimed to have trouble finding their team-mates against the crowd.[60] In 2001, to celebrate 100 years as "Manchester United", a reversible white/gold away kit was released, although the actual match day shirts were not reversible.[61] The club's third kit is often all-blue, this was most recently the case during the 2008–09 season, to celebrate 40 years since it was worn for the club's first European Cup win in 1968.[62] Exceptions include blue-and-white striped shirts worn during the 1994–96 season, an all black kit worn during the Treble winning season, and white shirts with black-and-red horizontal pinstripes worn between 2003–05.[63] The club's 2008–09 season away kit – a white shirt with blue and red trim, worn with blue shorts and white socks – was used as the club's third kit during the 2009–10 season.[64][65]
Grounds
Main articles: North Road, Bank Street, and Old Trafford
Old Trafford Theatre of Dreams
A stand of a football stadium. The seats are red, and the words "Manchester United" are written in white seats. The roof of the stand is supported by a cantilever structure. On the lip of the roof, it reads "Old Trafford Manchester".
Location Sir Matt Busby Way,
Old Trafford,
Greater Manchester,
England
Broke ground 1909
Opened 19 February 1910
Owner Manchester United
Operator Manchester United
Construction cost £90,000 (1909)
Architect Archibald Leitch (1909)
Capacity 75,957 seated[2]
Tenants
Manchester United (1910–present)

Newton Heath initially played on a field on North Road, close to the railway yard; the original capacity was about 12,000, but club officials deemed the facilities inadequate for a club hoping to join The Football League.[66] Some expansion took place in 1887, and in 1891 Newton Heath used its minimal financial reserves to purchase two grandstands, each able to hold 1,000 spectators.[67] Although attendances were not recorded for many of the earliest matches at North Road, the highest documented attendance was approximately 15,000 for a First Division match against Sunderland on 4 March 1893.[68] A similar attendance was also recorded for a friendly match against Gorton Villa on 5 September 1889.[69]

In June 1893, after the club was evicted from North Road by its owners, Manchester Deans and Canons, who felt it was inappropriate for the club to charge an entry fee to the ground, secretary A. H. Albut procured the use of the Bank Street ground in Clayton.[70] It initially had no stands, by the start of the 1893–94 season, two had been built; one spanning the full length of the pitch on one side and the other behind the goal at the "Bradford end". At the opposite end, the "Clayton end", the ground had been "built up, thousands thus being provided for".[70] Newton Heath's first league match at Bank Street was played against Burnley on 1 September 1893, when 10,000 people saw Alf Farman score a hat-trick, Newton Heath's only goals in a 3–2 win. The remaining stands were completed for the following league game against Nottingham Forest three weeks later.[70] In October 1895, before the visit of Manchester City, the club purchased a 2,000-capacity stand from the Broughton Rangers rugby league club, and put up another stand on the "reserved side" (as distinct from the "popular side"). However, weather restricted the attendance for the Manchester City match to just 12,000.[71]

When the Bank Street ground was temporarily closed by bailiffs in 1902, club captain Harry Stafford raised enough money to pay for the club's next away game at Bristol City and found a temporary ground at Harpurhey for the next reserves game against Padiham.[72] Following financial investment, new club president J.H. Davies paid £500 for the erection of a new 1,000-seat stand at Bank Street.[73] Within four years, the stadium had cover on all four sides, as well as the ability to hold approximately 50,000 spectators, some of whom could watch from the viewing gallery atop the Main Stand.[73]

However, following Manchester United's first league title in 1908 and the FA Cup a year later, it was decided that Bank Street was too restrictive for Davies' ambition;[73] in February 1909, six weeks before the club's first FA Cup title, Old Trafford was named as the home of Manchester United, following the purchase of land for around £60,000. Architect Archibald Leitch was given a budget of £30,000 for construction; original plans called for seating capacity of 100,000, though budget constraints forced a revision to 77,000. The building was constructed by Messrs Brameld and Smith of Manchester. The stadium's record attendance was registered on 25 March 1939, when an FA Cup semi-final between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Grimsby Town drew 76,962 spectators.[74]

Bombing in the Second World War destroyed much of the stadium; the central tunnel in the South Stand was all that remained of that quarter. After the war, the club received compensation from the War Damage Commission in the amount of £22,278. While reconstruction took place, the team played its "home" games at Manchester City's Maine Road ground; Manchester United was charged £5,000 per year, plus a nominal percentage of gate receipts.[75] Later improvements included the addition of roofs, first to the Stretford End and then to the North and East Stands. The roofs were supported by pillars that obstructed many fans' views, and they were eventually replaced with a cantilevered structure. The Stretford End was the last stand to receive a cantilevered roof, completed in time for the 1993–94 season.[32] First used on 25 March 1957 and costing £40,000, four 180-foot (55 m) pylons were erected, each housing 54 individual floodlights. These were dismantled in 1987 and replaced by a lighting system embedded in the roof of each stand, which remains in use today.[76]

The Taylor Report's requirement for an all-seater stadium lowered capacity at Old Trafford to around 44,000 by 1993. In 1995, the North Stand was redeveloped into three tiers, restoring capacity to approximately 55,000. At the end of the 1998–99 season, second tiers were added to the East and West Stands, raising capacity to around 67,000, and between July 2005 and May 2006, 8,000 more seats were added via second tiers in the north-west and north-east quadrants. Part of the new seating was used for the first time on 26 March 2006, when an attendance of 69,070 became a new Premier League record.[77] The record was pushed steadily upwards before reaching its peak on 31 March 2007, when 76,098 spectators saw Manchester United beat Blackburn Rovers 4–1, with just 114 seats (0.15 percent of the total capacity of 76,212) unoccupied.[78] In 2009, reorganisation of the seating resulted in a reduction of capacity by 255 to 75,957.[2][79]
Support

Manchester United is reputed to be the most popular football club in the world, with the highest average home attendance in Europe.[80] The club's worldwide fan base includes more than 200 officially recognised branches of the Manchester United Supporters Club (MUSC), in at least 24 countries.[81] The club takes advantage of this support through its worldwide summer tours. Accountancy firm and sports industry consultants Deloitte estimate that Manchester United has 75 million fans worldwide,[7] while other estimates put this figure closer to 333 million.[8]

Supporters are represented by two independent bodies; the Independent Manchester United Supporters Association (IMUSA), which maintains close links to the club through the MUFC Fans Forum,[82] and the Manchester United Supporters' Trust (MUST). After the Glazer family's takeover in 2005, a group of fans formed a splinter club, F.C. United of Manchester. The West Stand of Old Trafford – the "Stretford End" – is the home end and the traditional source of the club's most vocal support.[83]
Rivalries
Main articles: Manchester derby, Liverpool F.C. and Manchester United F.C. rivalry, and Leeds United A.F.C. and Manchester United F.C. rivalry

Manchester United has major ongoing rivalries with three clubs: Liverpool, Manchester City and Leeds United.[84][85] The most hotly contested derby fixture is often versus Liverpool, described by Ryan Giggs as "probably the most famous fixture in English football",[86] as both teams have dominated certain periods of English football.[87] The rivalry is considered a manifestation of the cities' competition during industrial times, when they competed for supremacy of the north-west; Manchester was famous for its textile industry, while Liverpool was considered the world's pre-eminent port.[88] This fixture also has a history of hooliganism; at the 1996 FA Cup Final, an unidentified Liverpool fan spat at Eric Cantona and threw a punch at Alex Ferguson as a victorious Manchester United team walked up the steps at Wembley Stadium to collect the trophy from the Royal Box.[89] At an FA Cup match in 2006, an ambulance carrying Alan Smith, who had broken his leg during the match, was attacked by Liverpool fans.[90]

Informally known as the "Roses Rivalry",[91] the rivalry with Leeds United has its origins in the Wars of the Roses fought between the House of Lancaster and the House of York, Manchester United representing Lancashire and Leeds representing Yorkshire.[92] Independent research by the Football Fans Census showed that in English football Leeds and Manchester United are among the top three clubs which fans of other sides feel passionately against.[93]
Global brand

Manchester United has been described as a global brand; a 2009 report valued the club's trademarks and associated intellectual property at £329 million, and gave the brand a strength rating of AAA (Extremely Strong).[94] In 2010, Forbes magazine ranked Manchester United second only to the New York Yankees in its list of the ten most valuable sports team brands, valuing the Manchester United brand at $285 million (16 percent of the club's $1.835 billion value).[9] The club is currently ranked third in the Deloitte Football Money League (behind Real Madrid and Barcelona).[10]

The core strength of Manchester United's global brand is often attributed to Matt Busby's rebuilding of the team and subsequent success following the Munich air disaster, which drew worldwide acclaim.[83] The "iconic" team included Bobby Charlton and Nobby Stiles (members of England's World Cup winning team), Denis Law and George Best. The attacking style of play adopted by this team (in contrast to the defensive-minded "catenaccio" approach favoured by the leading Italian teams of the era) "captured the imagination of the English footballing public".[95] Busby's team also became associated with the liberalisation of Western society during the 1960s; George Best, known as the "fifth Beatle" for his iconic haircut, was the first footballer to significantly develop an off-the-field media profile.[95]

As the first English football club to float on the London Stock Exchange in 1991, the club raised significant capital, with which it further developed its commercial strategy. The club's focus on commercial and sporting success brought significant profits in an industry often characterised by chronic losses.[96] The strength of the Manchester United brand was bolstered by intense off-the-field media attention to individual players, most notably David Beckham (who quickly developed his own global brand). This attention often generates greater interest in on-the-field activities, and hence generates sponsorship opportunities – the value of which is driven by television exposure.[97] During his time with the club, Beckham's popularity across Asia was integral to the club's commercial success in that part of the world.[98]

Because higher league placement results in a greater share of television rights, success on the field generates greater income for the club. Since the inception of the Premier League, Manchester United has received the largest share of the revenue generated from the BSkyB broadcasting deal.[99] Manchester United has also consistently enjoyed the highest commercial income of any English club; in 2005–06, the club's commercial arm generated £51 million, compared to £42.5 million at Chelsea, £39.3 million at Liverpool, £34 million at Arsenal and £27.9 million at Newcastle United. A key sponsorship relationship is with sportswear company Nike, who manage the club's merchandising operation as part of a £303 million 13-year partnership established in 2002.[100] Through Manchester United Finance and the club's membership scheme, One United, those with an affinity for the club can purchase a range of branded goods and services. Additionally, Manchester United-branded media services – such as the club's dedicated television channel, MUTV – have allowed the club to expand its fan base to those beyond the reach of its Old Trafford stadium.[7]
Sponsorship

In an initial five-year deal worth £500,000, Sharp Electronics became the club's first shirt sponsor at the beginning of the 1982–83 season, a relationship that lasted until the end of the 1999–2000 season, when Vodafone agreed a four-year, £30 million deal.[101] Vodafone agreed to pay £36 million to extend the deal by four years, but after two seasons triggered a break clause in order to concentrate on its sponsorship of the Champions League.[101]

To commence at the start of the 2006–07 season, American insurance corporation AIG agreed a four-year £56.5 million deal which in September 2006 became the most valuable in the world.[102][103] At the beginning of the 2010–11 season, American reinsurance company Aon became the club's principal sponsor in a four-year deal reputed to be worth approximately £80 million, making it the most lucrative shirt sponsorship deal in football history.[104]

The club's first kit manufacturer was Umbro, until a five-year deal was agreed with Admiral Sportswear in 1975.[105] Adidas received the contract in 1980,[106] before Umbro started a second spell in 1992.[107] Umbro's sponsorship lasted for ten years, followed by Nike's record-breaking £302.9 million deal that will last until 2015; 3.8 million replica shirts were sold in the first 22 months with the company.[108][109] In addition to Nike and Aon, the club also has several lower-level "platinum" sponsors, including Audi and Budweiser.[110]
Ownership and finances
See also: Malcolm Glazer ownership of Manchester United

Originally funded by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company, the club became a limited company in 1892 and sold shares to local supporters for £1 via an application form.[15] In 1902, majority ownership passed to the four local businessmen who invested £500 to save the club from bankruptcy, including future club president J.H Davies.[15] After his death in 1927, the club faced bankruptcy yet again, but was saved in December 1931 by James W. Gibson, who assumed control of the club after investing £2,000.[20] Gibson promoted his son, Alan, to the board in 1948,[111] but died three years later; the Gibson family retained ownership of the club,[112] but the position of chairman passed to former player Harold Hardman.[113]

Promoted to the board a few days after the Munich air disaster, Louis Edwards, a friend of Matt Busby, began acquiring shares in the club; for an investment of approximately £40,000, he accumulated a 54 percent shareholding and took control in January 1964.[114] When Lillian Gibson died in January 1971, her shares passed to Alan Gibson who sold a percentage of his shares to Louis Edwards' son, Martin in 1978; Martin Edwards went on to become chairman upon his father's death in 1980.[115] Media tycoon Robert Maxwell attempted to buy the club in 1984, but did not meet Edwards' asking price.[115] In 1989, chairman Martin Edwards attempted to sell the club to Michael Knighton for £20 million, but the sale fell through and Knighton joined the Board of Directors instead.[115]

Manchester United was floated on the stock market in June 1991 (raising £6.7 million),[116] and received yet another takeover bid in 1998, this time from Rupert Murdoch's British Sky Broadcasting Corporation. This resulted in the formation of Shareholders United Against Murdoch – now the Manchester United Supporters' Trust – who encouraged supporters to buy shares in the club in an attempt to block any hostile takeover. The Manchester United board accepted a £623 million offer,[117] but the takeover was blocked by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission at the final hurdle in April 1999.[118] A few years later, a power struggle emerged between the club's manager, Alex Ferguson, and his horse-racing partners, John Magnier and J. P. McManus, who had gradually become the majority shareholders. In a dispute that stemmed from contested ownership of the horse Rock of Gibraltar, Magnier and McManus attempted to have Ferguson removed from his position as manager, and the board responded by approaching investors to attempt to reduce the Irishmen's majority.[119]

In May 2005, Malcolm Glazer purchased the 28.7 percent stake held by McManus and Magnier, thus acquiring a controlling interest through his investment vehicle Red Football Ltd in a highly leveraged takeover valuing the club at approximately £800 million (then approx. $1.5 billion).[120][121] In July 2006, the club announced a £660 million debt refinancing package, resulting in a 30 percent reduction in annual interest payments to £62 million a year.[122][123] In January 2010, with debts of £716.5 million ($1.17 billion),[124] Manchester United further refinanced through a bond issue worth £504 million, enabling them to pay off most of the £509 million owed to international banks.[125] The annual interest payable on the bonds – which mature on 1 February 2017 – is approximately £45 million per annum.[126] Despite restructuring, the club's debt prompted protests from fans on 23 January 2010, at Old Trafford and the club's Trafford Training Centre.[127][128] Supporter groups encouraged match-going fans to wear green and gold, the colours of Newton Heath. On 30 January, reports emerged that the Manchester United Supporters' Trust had held meetings with a group of wealthy fans, dubbed the "Red Knights", with plans to buying out the Glazers' controlling interest.[129] wikipedia.com

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