Manchester United is not for sale


LONDON: Manchester United's owners insisted Friday that they will not listen to any offers for the Premier League club.

The statement came as the 18-time English champions delivered a quarterly update on its financial results at the end of a season marked by fan protests against the Glazer family and a runner-up finish in the league.

Green-and-gold scarves have been adopted by fans furious at the high level of debt they claim is hampering the club's ability to compete in the transfer market.

And a group of financiers calling themselves the Red Knights have joined forces with the Manchester United Supporters' Trust to put together a bid to buy out the Glazers.

But after three months of posturing, the Red Knights are yet to submit a bid - and the Glazers insist any takeover bids would be rejected.

Last year, they are believed to have rebuffed a 1.5 billion-pound (US$2.2 billion) offer from a Qatari group.

"The board noted recent press speculation regarding a possible bid for Manchester United," read Friday's statement from the United board.

"The owners remain fully committed to their long-term ownership of the club. Manchester United is not for sale and the owners will not entertain any offers."

The supporters' trust questioned why the Glazers, who bought United in a leveraged buyout in 2005, felt moved to address the issue.

"If the club really isn't for sale why would they need to say anything at all?" MUST chief executive Duncan Drasdo said.

"Why are they so concerned about telling everyone they don't want to sell? If they don't want to sell they can simply reject any offer. It sounds like the gentleman doth protest too much.

"The Glazers are clearly panicking over the powerful Green and Gold campaign, the growing opposition among supporters and the threat of a mass non-renewal of season tickets from supporters."

The financial results for the three months to March 31 revealed debts of 520.9 million pounds - a figure that does not include 225 million pounds of loans, which carry an interest rate of 16.25 percent.

But United's revenues grew by almost 15 percent compared to last year to 219.3 million pounds.

The latest set of results revealed that United has cash reserves of 95.9 million pounds - which Alex Ferguson could spend on players in the offseason, although the 68-year-old manager has balked at what he calls exorbitant transfer fees lately.

Defender Chris Smalling has already been recruited from Fulham and Mexico striker Javier Hernandez from Chivas.

The spark that reignited anger against the Glazers in January was a 320-page prospectus sent to prospective buyers of bonds in United that laid bare the club's financial predicament.

The seven-year bond issue raised 504 million pounds to replace long-term financing and reduce debts to hedge funds.

"I firmly believe that the financing we have in place and with the growth we have seen in our commercial operations - even with the interest (payments) of 45 million pounds (annually) - we can sustain that and still be a top, top club," chief executive David Gill said.

"We can invest in the players, invest in the training ground - we have plans for that - invest in the stadium and do those things.

"I understand people's concerns but that has always been the case. There have always been people who have not been happy. Very few football clubs are happy with their owners.

Forbes magazine recently estimated that United is worth $1.8 billion - making it the most valuable football team in its rankings for the sixth straight year. - AP

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