Between the Lines

"Of all unimportant subjects, football is the most important" – Pope John Paul II

Archive for January, 2010

Those lines that I before have writ do lie

Posted by hakanrylander on January 31, 2010

This game confirmed two things.

1: For a neutral who loves football the meetings between United and Arsenal are the most enjoyable in the Premier League.

2: Between the Lines has been wrong all along about Nani. Regular visitors will be aware that I’ve dismissed him as our most frustrating player and expected him to be sold. If he had been sold this morning I wouldn’t have missed him. Today he forced me to change my opinion. He scored a brilliant individual goal (with a little help from Almunia), but in a way I was even more impressed with his assist for the second goal when he ran with the ball from inside his own half towards the Arsenal defence. At this moment I would have expected the old Nani to miss-hit the pass or make a desperate attempt to beat the keeper from long-distance. Instead he slowed down, calmly waited for Rooney to arrive in the penalty area and then hit a perfect pass. His performance in the first half was the best I’ve ever seen from him. But isn’t this just another of Nani’s false dawns? I don’t think so. I think that today Nani truly arrived as a Manchester United player.


Posted in Manchester United, Match Reports, Player Analysis | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

United fans in the City our best hope for salvation

Posted by hakanrylander on January 26, 2010

Two articles in Telegraph today point to a remote but perhaps not completely impossible solution to our debt problems. Paul Marshall, co-founder of hedge fund Marshall Wace and a United fan, says it’s time for supporters to combine forces to return the club to the community – debt free. Marshall is highly critical of our present owners and says “debt has acted like a leech on the club, sucking money out of the football budget to feed the Glazers and their bankers”. As you might remember this fits well with the views of Between the Lines.

In a separate article Jim O’Neill, star economist at Goldman Sachs, declares that “there is too much leverage going on with Manchester United”, despite the fact that the investment bank is making millions in fees from the fund raising.

The idea is very appealing. For the club to be owned by the fans, Barcelona style, would be a perfect solution to the Glazer problem.

But it will be very difficult to realize. Most of all because of the huge amounts of money involved. By a very rough estimate it would cost us £1.2 billion to buy 100% of the shares and pay off all debt.  If each member was willing to pay £1,000 we would need 1.2 million(!) fans to sign up. Sounds impossible, doesn’t it? On the other hand, United have over 6 million registered fans and more than 300 million fans worldwide, according to some sources. But apart from the difficulty in finding the money it would also take an awful lot of administration to create such an ownership structure.

Any initiative would depend heavily on the financial expertise of people such as Paul Marshall, Jim O’Neill or others with a similar standing. Hopefully the article by Mr Marshall and the statement by Mr O’Neill could trigger some discussions among United fans in the City. It would also take a lot of efforts and commitment from MUST and supporter clubs around the world to market the proposal. Maybe even bloggers could get involved.

It’s probably an impossible dream. But I think it’s worth a try.

Find out more in these highly interesting articles by Paul Marshall and about Jim O’Neill.

Posted in Financial, Manchester United | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Six conclusions from United vs Hull

Posted by hakanrylander on January 24, 2010

1. Premier League Top Scorers

  • Wayne Rooney       19
  • Darren Bent            14
  • Jermain Defoe        14
  • Didier Drogba         14
  • Carlos Tevez           12
  • Fernando Torres     12

2. We don’t want Wayne Rooney to get injured.

3. Apart from Rooney the game was dominated by massive protests against the Glazers. It strikes me as odd that the owners make no visible attempt whatsoever to improve their image. They just don’t seem to care. This is rare in the corporate world where companies are normally very keen to put a positive spin on their actions and strategies. Maybe the family members are not comfortable in the media spotlight, but they could at least hire some public relations experts. This could be payed for by the club so that the family would not have to dig into the consultancy fees they are busy putting in their own pockets. The previous sentence  pretty much sums up the way in which the Glazers are now perceived by lots of fans. That the owners fail to respond to this indicates that customer relations is not a priority.

4. The old Michael Owen would have scored a couple.

5. Darron Gibson only played for 20 minutes but still managed to impress me. Maybe I’m getting carried away, but I feel that Gibson will be a very important player for us.

6. And while I’m at it I might as well get carried away once more. Mame Biram Diouf scored a hat trick for the reserves on Thursday. All three goals were very well taken. I’d love to see him start alongside Rooney against City on Wednesday.

Posted in Financial, Manchester United, Match Reports, Player Analysis | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Four conclusions from Burnley and City

Posted by hakanrylander on January 20, 2010

1. We have defensive problems. Not surprising given the continued absence of Vidic and Ferdinand. Even so I feel that a back four of Neville/Rafael, Brown, Evans and Evra should be strong enough for most games. But Burnley (with a dreadful away record) were often given a lot of space and created quite a few clear-cut chances, and we were lucky that they didn’t manage to convert a couple of them. I also believe that a lack of understanding between Evans and Brown gifted Tevez the winner. They both went wide to cover the cross but if one had stayed in the middle Tevez would hardly have been left with a free header.

2. Wayne Rooney is too isolated. Against City we used the 4-2-3-1 system that I prefer, but Anderson didn’t provide enough support for Rooney through the middle. Rooney did well, particularly towards the end, but he can hurt the opposition more if given more support. Fabio Capello seems to agree.

3. After three brief appearances I’m already optimistic about Mame Biram Diouf. Most of all because he gets into good positions. Should have scored, though, when he got a free header with minutes remaining against City.

4. It was good to see a MotM performance from United old-boy Chris Eagles. He had a couple of decent games for United, but in the end he didn’t quite manage to become a first team regular. It was obvious that he really wanted to make an impression in this game, and he did.

Posted in Manchester United, Match Reports | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Glazers prepare to take huge amounts of cash out of United

Posted by hakanrylander on January 19, 2010

It seems that the Glazers are preparing to take even more cash out of United than I anticipated. At least they’ve made sure that the small print in the recently published bond prospectus makes this possible.

The amounts mentioned are quite staggering. According to the terms of the bond issue the owners are allowed to take £70m of the club’s cash reserves, a £25m dividend, half of the club’s consolidated net income (£23m last year), £6m for “administration and management services” and £3m for services provided by holding companies. This adds up to £127m.

This is in addition to the payments of interest that will amount to £45m. Probably a bit more since the rate on the bond is likely to be somewhat higher than 9%.

This could bring the total taken out of United to service the Glazers’ borrowings to £172m next year alone!

Even Sir Alex Ferguson might then feel that our clout in the transfer market has been slightly reduced.

Find out more in this excellent article by David Conn and Owen Gibson in the Guardian.

Posted in Financial, Manchester United | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Tick Tock, Tick Tock, Tick Tock

Posted by hakanrylander on January 15, 2010

The recent publication of the financial results for the year to 30 June 2009 and the roadshow promoting a £500m bond issue have again highlighted United’s long-term financial situation. Unfortunately this has made me more pessimistic than ever. It’s no longer a question of IF we’ll get serious sporting problems, but WHEN.

The huge debt of around £700m remains the heart of the problem. The interest payable was £42m in the last financial year and £69m in the previous one, and on top of that family members extracted £20m in loans and “consultancy fees”. In total the Glazer take-over has cost United £325m in interest. So far.

The bond issue document makes chilling reading as it reveals that the Glazers are considering sales of assets to reduce the debt. They explicitly refer to the Carrington training ground, but this strategy might very well be extended to include Old Trafford and Wayne Rooney.

It’s a mystery how Ferguson can believe that the financial situation has little or no influence on his ability to sign and retain the best players. The most likely explanation is that he feels that his best strategy is to try and stay good friends with the owners.

Most United fans seem to accept that there will be no new signings in January, but believe that the club is prepared to spend big in the summer. I´m not so sure. My prediction is that incoming transfers in the summer will not amount to much more than we will receive from the sales of Vidic, Nani and Tosic.

In conclusion, I just can’t see how we can continue to send huge amounts of money out of the club every season and still keep up with Chelsea and City, let alone Real Madrid and Barcelona. The weakening finances will sooner or later affect our competitiveness on the field, which will in turn affect our finances. Sooner or later. Tick tock.

Posted in Financial, Manchester United | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Between the Lines Recommends

Posted by hakanrylander on January 9, 2010

More Than Mind Games tries to explain the strange lack of good English managers.

As always an interesting, and this time depressing, read from David Conn.

Internet per Totti at Dirty Tackle.

Off The Post searches in vain for a word for postponement in Estonian.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Debt Also Rises, II

Posted by hakanrylander on January 8, 2010

The start of a new decade calls for the long-term view. And whether you like it or not, long-term sporting success in today’s football depends more than anything on – money. Thus my pessimism.

United now owe something like £700m to banks and hedge funds. This in itself need not be too much of a problem. Normal companies often have huge debts without this being particularly alarming. But there’s a crucial difference. Normal companies have debts because they’ve borrowed money to invest in machinery, factories, real estate or whatever. And these investments bring, or are at least supposed to bring, revenues that help pay off the debt. Football clubs also do this. When Arsenal invested in a new stadium their debt rose significantly, but so did their gate receipts on every match day.

United’s debt, on the other hand, is virtually not investment related at all. It was taken on only to finance the Glazer take-over. In effect, the club is paying lots of money every year for the privilege of having new owners. In the year to 30 June 2008 the interest payable was £69m. Most of this money could otherwise have been spent on investments in players, ground improvements etc. Similar sums go to waste every season.

And by a complete coincidence a United manager, for the first time in living memory, finds no value for money in the transfer market. I believe the sad truth is that the board no longer supports Ferguson in the transfer market the way they used to when we signed Robson, Keane, Ferdinand and Rooney. Not a big problem in the short-term. I don’t see any desperate need for big signings in January. But in the long-term there’s no way we can keep up with Real Madrid, Chelsea or City without being prepared to pay big money for top players.

The only solution that I can see is that someone is prepared to pay enough money for the club so that the Glazers can leave with a healthy return on their investment. The sooner, the better.

Posted in Financial, Manchester United | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »