As David Beckham returns, anger at Manchester United US owner
Manchester United prodigal son David Beckham returns home to Old Trafford for the first time in seven years today, representing AC Milan in a clash for a quarterfinal place in the European Champions League, the world's richest club soccer competition. There's a brewing insurgency in Manchester, though, against the clubs US owner Malcolm Glazer.
[UPDATE: Manchester United crushed A.C. Milan 4-0 to advance to the quarter finals of the European Premier League. David Beckham entered as a substitute but did little to change the course of the game. ]Skip to next paragraph
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Manchester United fans have had more than just the prospect of securing a European Champions League quarterfinal place on their minds ahead of their clash with AC Milan Wednesday – a tie infused with the return "home" of one time Manchester golden boy David Beckham wearing the Italian champions’ colors.
Rather than their traditional red and white however, thousands of the Manchester faithful were planning to attend wearing the green and gold that has become a symbol of an escalating rebellion against the club’s deeply unpopular American owner Malcolm Glazer. Mr. Glazer, who also owns the NFL's Tampa Buccaneers, stands accused of risking United’s ruin by saddling the richest soccer club in the world with nearly $1 billion of debt when he bought the club in a highly leveraged takeover in 2005.
Talk of large numbers even boycotting the opening 10 minutes were dismissed Wednesday by Manchester United manger Alex Ferguson. "The fans won't do that,” he told reporters. ”It is too important a game. Old Trafford will be rocking and I am sure whether they are wearing the traditional red and white or the protest green and gold scarves, the supporters will be united and speaking with one voice to get us safely through.''
But even if some fans skip the opening minutes, they're unlikely to miss any action from Mr. Beckham, who is expected to start the game on the bench in his first appearance at Old Trafford football stadium in seven years.
Nevertheless, for fans across the country - including many who instinctively bristle at the perceived arrogance of the United faithful but whose own clubs face extinction due to the huge levels of debt wracked up through overspending - the rebellion at what is arguably the world’s most famous club is a sign of hope that a fight-back is possible against powerful commercial interests.
Glazer has alienated fans of the Red Devils with the sale of star players such as the Portuguese striker Cristiano Ronaldo and soaring ticket prices. Two thirds of fans are reportedly considering not renewing their season tickets, which have gone up from their pre-takeover price of £487 ($663) to £722 ($982) this year.