Article by Wswilly3
The decline of Manchester United started on the 27 May 2009. I had gone to Rome, for the Champions League Final, with the Islington Branch of the Manchester United Supporters Club, in an optimistic frame of mind. However the only thing that turned out to be palatable were the prawn canapés on the plane. Everything else was a total disaster and we were beaten 2-0 by Barcelona. We weren’t given any penalties, Ronaldo’s diving wasn’t rewarded and the referee was quite impartial; it was just not going to be our day
Within a couple of weeks came the news that Ronaldo was leaving for Real Madrid and Tevez for Manchester City. Still we now had a lot of money, although we were later to find out that much of this had to be used to pay off the interest rates necessary for our spiralling debt. We did sign Valencia for £18million, Michael Owen on a free and an unknown French winger who couldn’t get into the side.
The 2009/10 season didn’t go well, we were knocked out of the Champions League at the Quarter Final stage, we won none of the domestic cups and finished fifth in the premiership. This was won by Chelsea and Manchester City finished ahead of us in fourth place. Then Sir Alec Ferguson was elevated to the position of Director of Football and a new manger appointed; Steve Bruce who had done quite well in his one season at Sunderland.
In the close season we were told that we would not be spending a lot on transfer fees as we had a lot of good youngsters coming through and they would be given an opportunity. At this stage the debt was getting higher and the interest rates were getting harder to cover. Season ticket sales and attendances were down because we weren’t winning. The buses from London bringing the fans to the home games were getting emptier and many fans had switched to Chelsea, as they were winning a lot.
It has to be said that 2010/11 was a total disaster, we got knocked out of the Champions League in the preliminary round by a team from Rumania and half way through the season were in twelfth place. Steve Bruce was sacked and replaced by Roy Keane, who decided to have a clean sweep of everything and even dismissed the grounds-man. He transfer listed Wayne Rooney for lack of effort and he was bought by Manchester City, who still had money galore. We narrowly avoided relegation and what’s more the Premiership was won by Manchester City, whose manager was an ex-United player, Mark Hughes.
By this time we were being told our financial situation was serious and the debt and interest levels had spiralled. The Glazers refused to sell, as that would have totally bankrupted them, as the asking price was now much lower.
Attendances were down to under 30,000 and for most home games one side of the ground was not opened to save on stewarding costs. Prawn sandwiches were replaced by corned beef ones in the hospitality areas and on the pitch we realised we were in a relegation fight, that we were doomed to lose. The last game of the season was against the newly promoted Leeds United and was lost at home; we were relegated to the Championship.
Things went from bad to worse when the Glazers went bankrupt and in the close season we went into administration and were deducted ten points. We were sold to a firm of American property developers who promised a lot but decided that as an economy measure we would ground share with Oldham Athletic, whilst they redeveloped Old Trafford.
The rest is history as they say, as the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ is now luxury flats, a hotel and a greyhound track but at least they had the good taste to call it the ‘Sir Alex Ferguson Dog Track’.
I still make the fortnightly trip to Manchester from my Islington home but now support Manchester City. They have gone from strength to strength since signing a host of world class stars. They have won the Premiership for the last two years and the Champions League last season beating Barcelona 4-0 in the final.
Yes it’s been a roller coaster ride for us fans but at least I’m still supporting the most successful side in England and now Europe. My only gripe; they don’t serve prawn sandwiches at Eastlands, so I have to make do with the caviar and champagne football that is being served up on the pitch.
Well, we all like a bit of fantasy about the ‘Theatre of Dreams but you never know, remember Leeds United’! Still the thought of it brings a smile to my face and I hope to yours and I for one would go to the ‘Sir Alex Ferguson Dog Track’. See you there.