MUST Newsletter - December 2022

MUST Newsletter - December 2022

‘Tis the season for reflection! As the curtain falls on 2022, we think back to what the past twelve months have meant to United fans, and what 2023 could bring as well. 

Team Fortunes

By any measure, we are certainly leaving the year in much better shape than we entered it! Truly the less said about the Rangnick regime, the better. Whatever one’s views on Ole Gunnar’s tenure as manager, the appointment of an interim manager seemed to be an inherent capitulation when there was still a lot to play for. Our finish to the season was spectacularly lacklustre with us only just managing to nick a Europa League spot, a full 35 points and 73 goal difference behind City, who barely edged the scousers for the title. Head scratching performances by United were legion, and about the only thing we clung to by season’s end was the appointment of a curious Dutch fellow who seemed to be in tune with United’s ethos as a club. But whether he would deliver on the biggest stage in the biggest league, well, that was surely an open question. 

The silly season saw—thankfully—many outgoings and a few incomings who, at the time at least, all seemed either a bit Dutch or a bit long in the tooth, none of whom were called Frenkie. But hey, new season, new hope. And it was the hope that nearly killed us. Under different circumstances, an opening day loss at home against Brighton followed by the outright cowardice on display at Brentford would have been enough to make a fair few Reds call for a manager’s head, but who didn’t like the cut of Erik’s jib when he made the boys run 13km the day after to make up for how much they had been outrun by their opponents the day before? Then the changes came. We beat Liverpool 2-1 with two central defenders, each of which now can boast a World Cup! Two “over the hill” midfielders, one Danish, one Brazilian, showed their quality. Of course there have been ups and downs since, but it sure feels like a positive change is afoot. The manager and the players have—certainly for now—the backing of the fans, and as we would ever hope, we have some fantastic young players coming through. After a tough few years, there are real grounds for optimism that better times are ahead.

Club Fortunes

If the team ends 2022 with signs of green shoots, then we can say the club does too. Why? Because of the announcement from the Glazers last month that finally recognises that change is needed at United. Their “strategic review” is an effort to bring in more funding in exchange for a stake in the club, but it is fair to say that many United fans (perhaps most) hope it is an outright sale, which is certainly a possible (even likely) outcome. Regardless, there can be no question that significant investment is needed, and the Glazers have shown no desire to provide it from their own funds. 

The unravelling of United as a healthy football club and business has been a slow and unpleasant process. No-one can now deny the damage that 17 years of Glazer ownership has wrought. It was in this context that the protests resurfaced in 2022. We have a lot of appreciation for the way the 1958 group picked up the protest mantle and ran with it to great effect. MUST publicised those protests and many of our regular members and Board members joined the marches. During the period from 2005 - 2012 when we had no dialogue with the club we employed similar protest & sponsor tactics as it was the only mechanism we had to apply pressure or influence. We are in a place now, however, where we do have dialogue. It makes sense to take a two pronged approach with MUST continuing to work with the club to bring about change, while the 1958 pursued a protest tactic. We believe that combination was an effective way to maximise fan pressure and influence.

Of course if/when the club is sold and the Glazers go, the key is that the new owner is not just any owner, but the right owner. One that will take us back to the top of European football, bringing fresh investment and working in partnership with fans. Our 12 point plan for that new owner has now been endorsed by well over 100 fans’ groups and it would make sense for anyone looking at bidding for the Club to read it carefully. We are also consulting individual fans on this through our latest survey here so please ensure you take part and then invite friends to do so too.

For MUST the year also involved a continuing process to professionalise who we are and what we do. We now sit on the Fans’ Advisory Board and Fans’ Forum with the club, and whilst both of those bodies are decried by some, the reality is that through those avenues we are able to achieve real wins for fans. This year, for example, discussions through those forums resulted in the removal of the hated Compulsory Automatic Cup Scheme which forced you to buy tickets for games you had no intention of attending. This was a big win that saved real fans real cash.

Much of the year was also spent talking to the club about the creation of the Fans Share Scheme, or FSS. Now with the news of the potential sale, it is tempting to conclude that the FSS was (FFS!) a waste of time. But it wasn't. First, talks on this continue and have not stopped despite the strategic review. Second, even if the club is sold, we’ll want new owners to, at a bare minimum, offer a similar process for fans to buy shares in the club. And all the work that was done means they will have an off-the-shelf scheme they can pick up and run with.

So, in conclusion, we do leave 2022 in a better place. We’ve all spent 17 years calling for change, and it is now tangibly close to happening in the year ahead.

The year ahead

We don’t have a crystal ball but most reds do seem to agree we are improving on the pitch. Quite a few of the boys had good World Cups, and if one consequence of the month in the desert is the rebirth of Marcus Rashford then wow, maybe the whole dodgy enterprise was worth it! It's been a good while without any silverware now, and if we could get our hands on something by May then most people will think the Ten Hag era has made a good start.

Off-the-field, there will be three overriding priorities.
  1. Keep up pressure on the Glazers. The sale process cannot be dragged out. If they are selling they need to get on with it, and they need to pass the club onto a new steward who will work in partnership with fans and invest in both the team and the club.
  2. Influence prospective bidders. Anyone seeking to buy Manchester United needs to understand what the fans want and expect. We need to stop them repeating the mistakes of the Glazers and make them work in genuine partnership with fans from day one. That is mission number one!
  3. Keep securing day-to-day wins for fans. All the while this “big” stuff is happening we will continue to use our day-to-day dialogue with the club to secure wins with fans. We bat for you on ticketing, prices, kick-off times and things that impact non-match-going fans too of course. Sometimes we win, sometimes we don’t. But we will never stop fighting in your interests on these vital day-to-day matters.
Whilst occasionally United fans might look to the outside world like a divided fanbase, we know the vast majority of fans agree with these three big priorities. We don’t all have to agree on every point, and certainly not on every tactic, but the truth is there is very little difference in principle on what we want for our football club. It is borne out by every survey we’ve carried out: almost all United fans want to see unity and everyone working together towards a common goal. 

With a united front we have great collective strength – more than many often imagine. Ultimately, we all want the same thing: a healthy United challenging for titles. In 2023, we might just have our best chance in a long time to deliver it. Let’s stay United, and let’s make it happen. 

On behalf of all of us at MUST, Merry Christmas and best wishes for a healthy and happy 2023. 

PS. One final plea - for those of you who will be attending the Forest home game on 27th December please consider dropping by at the MUST Stall and Foodbank Donation Point at 18 Sir Matt Busby Way. Many thanks to our office manager Ian, his wife Claire and son Joshua (and occasionally other Patterson family members!), who run the stall and Foodbank collection on matchdays. If you can donate non-perishable food items or cash it will be hugely appreciated by those less fortunate at this time of great need. For those not attending in person you can also donate by entering our Foodbank fundraising prize draw and there’s the chance to win a signed Cantona shirt in the process so you might be rewarded for your generosity too.

Those not attending in person you can also donate by entering our Foodbank fundraising prize draw and there’s the chance to win a signed Cantona shirt in the process so you might be rewarded for your generosity too.

Photo credit: Han Balk | Photography
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