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Saturday, January 28, 2006

Fergie anger at FA charge for Gary Nev Scouse celebration

"Absolutely no chance [would The FA have acted if Neville did not play for United]. Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher ran the full length of the field with their fists raised at the Everton fans recently, and not a word was said. At Manchester City, Robbie Fowler ran past our fans showing five fingers [to indicate Liverpool's European Cup wins], and our fans surged to the front. The stewards had real trouble dealing with them and not a word was said then either. The FA compliance office only reacts when the press writes it - that is a fact and it cannot be right. You can't be running a proper compliance office if it only reacts to what the press say. What are they doing during the week? Does nobody study videos, only read it in the papers. It is a problem. In terms of Gary, all we have seen him doing is celebrating. To whom, there is no evidence, so I think The FA have a hard case to prove."

Friday, January 27, 2006

Meet the Beardsmore

I've been fortunate enough to have bumped into, met, interviewed or stalked a number of United players - either retired or still playing - over the years. However some may say it's slightly churlish of me to admit that sometimes my eager expectation in advance is slightly premature as I feel somewhat cheated on meeting a player I have such admiration for from their on field experiences for United. As off it they just don't match that expectation.

It doesn't happen all the time of course, and there is something in the fact that true United legends always (alright then, Bobby apart) seem to live up to your dream image of them. My gleeful possession of Eric Cantona's underpants (see last issue) bears testimony to that. And yes, I'm still having difficulty finding out exactly what to do with them. Perhaps because they are legends they know how to cope with the adulation. Eric, Norman and Sir Matt have not only given off an aura of greatness, exuding it, but also, despite probably having to cope with this star struck fan encounter thousands or more times a year, make you actually feel as though you are unique with their appreciation for your support.

Yet others leave a bitter taste in the mouth. Sadly many of them are from recent times. Certainly eras change and I recall vividly the tales of older Reds about how amiable the Babes and his team were with an accessibility to the team back then which would amaze many today. From United fans managing to cadge lifts back on the team coach or train (remember these were days when a game at Ipswich was actually bought forward for a kick off so travelling United fans could make the last train back home - no 8pm Monday night bollocks there then) to an open atmosphere at the players' hotel, wherever it may be. So open was it that many a good relationship was built between supporter and player that still exists to this day (Crerand and Best with Reds to name but two). Of course in todays world there is a fear and apprehension about being approached too closely by any stranger - will they sell a story, what are they in it for?

It's partly understandable when Keano so rightly points out that there are a lot of bullshitting hangers on out there infesting the world of the professional footballer but sadly many fail to realise that it's the outer circle that they surround themselves in that is the real problem, not Reds wanting a glimpse of their idol and their world. Being harangued for autographs all the time can't be an attractive proposition, unless you are able to recall dreaming of such adulation when they started their playing careers and every snub or 'not now' decline fails to realise that the person asking them may be a lifelong Red
seeking out a memento of their meeting of a hero for the very first time.

This uneasy situation probably first began to rear it's head under Big Fat Ron. Of course these things always depend on the where and when the meeting takes place - some have even found bald Bobby to be charming on occasion - but sadly that period had an indicative familiar scene where Reds who had made a lot of effort and spent a lot more money to travel the world to follow United used to come across the quite familiar and well versed return when they bumped into the players and management of: "What the fuck are you lot doing here. We don't want you here". That sort of attitude can't be defended even accepting that there was a lot of unease about trouble abroad with United fans and when you think that one Red out of just a score who had gone to see the Reds in the States in the early 80s was told that he was mad and wasn't wanted out there at the team hotel when he'd only wanted to see what was going on makes you realise how arrogant some at United behaved.

Of course they are only human. And that fallibility and insecurity comes through often when you encounter a player. They can be nice, they can be arseholes. They can be confident, shy, pissed, charming. You name it. Just 11 lads. It's amazing they get on together as well as they do (and some don't - believe me). That's why it can sometimes make me feel slightly uneasy. I can explain my love, dedication and obsession for United very easily - yet when I see a player who I love on the pitch act up off it or appear like a complete and utter tosser you do sometimes have to admit that when you say how much you adore a
United legend, it may only mean up until they walk off the pitch at the end of the game. I'm always relieved when a player acts like a real hero outside of Old Trafford. Too many of us perhaps put halos on the players which are undeserved and unwanted.

Yet perhaps those who have forgotten their roots or act like big time Charlies (literally in some cases, eh?) are the exceptions to the rule. We've all got our positive stories of encountering a player - from Norman buying me a drink in Dublin to Eric's personal goodbye at the beach football (again see last issue). Some of the nicest players I've met have been the ones you'd perhaps least expect it to be if you went purely on footballing credentials at United - Alan Brazil and Terry Gibson. Perhaps their lack of confidence, their own on field problems made them easier to chat to, more likely to seek out a friendly face and supporter - something that Veron admitted to this summer when he talked of isolated walks around Manchester late at night, and his appreciation for United fans who stopped him for a chat. Though I bet they were a bit surprised finding him at the fridge section of 7-11 late at night. Michael Holding, the cricketer, once refused to sign an autograph for me when
I was a kid in the 80s. All keen and excited, I was gutted for days. He always seems a decent, likable man on SKY these days so perhaps it was a one off - but it took me years to forgive such a snubbing and shows not only how pathetically upset I used to get back then but how much a snub can affect a fan. Kids may want the autographs and the shirts signed but let's be honest, there aren't many of us, whatever age who wouldn't want to chat or share a drink with a player if we got the opportunity. We live in a culture where that is harder and less likely to happen given the world they live in, with staggering riches and the hassles that go with it (partly tongue in cheek, partly not when you look at Becks' hate mail, stalkers and threats).

Maybe the days of friendships between players and fans are long gone. It will be sad if it is. Not just for us, frozen out and feeling more isolated and reminiscent for the good old days than ever but because it can help to keep a players feet on the ground, that little bit of perspective and relation to the people who pay their wages. Fergie once famously opened his house for a drink when we won the first title to two Reds drunkenly celebrating outside his house. I wonder if that would ever happen again? Of course some may understand why it wouldn't - but if that's the case, is signing a piece of paper or having a
short chat with a United fan that much effort?

My most endearing meeting with a player has to be back at the turn of 1989. As only United could back then we'd flown the heights after that wonderful Fergie fledgling inspired 3-1 victory over Liverpool on New Years Day, only to sink back into a mid table swamp with a 1-0 defeat at Boro the very next day (in an away end, caged and terraced that just summed up that gloomy era). We were used to that sort of defeat then though so we merely changed the post match drink from a celebration to a wake in a 24 hour period. Back then the peroxide allure of Saturday's nightclub in the Britannia Hotel had its very own appeal (I blame the drug sniffing on our failure to realise how tacky the club was - well, all that fake blonde spray must have been making us high) and you'd often see one of the younger members of the team strutting his stuff on the dance floor to an appreciative audience of girls. You'd also more often than not see Lee Sharpe do that week in, week out there. I'm amazed he found the time to play for United in between his nights out.

Giggsy came and quickly went, realising there were much better venues to start his post match career in, but the youth and reserve team always seemed well represented. Unlike the usual hangers on there was one normal lad close to the team (one of those top geezers who if you asked for a new pair of trainers would suddenly have them appear in a box Paul Daniels like 15 minutes later) called Dave from Salford.

A can of Fosters never left his presence in all the years that I knew him, a truly top lad. Hence the very original nickname: 'Can of Fosters Dave'. He was close enough to most of the team to take no shit and instead jokingly gave a lot out. You felt they appreciated someone who couldn't be a phoney if he tried. He also very handily a few times introduced me to some girls as a member of the youth squad - quite a winner until they asked me why I wasn't wearing the club blazer with badge like the others and seemed to weigh twice as much as them. I quickly downgraded to the chef at the Cliff. That didn't work either. As is the way most of the lads never made it in football let alone at United. The first time we ever met Dave was after the Boro game. The nightclub was empty because it was the end of the holidays and we quickly recognised Russell Beardsmore. He was with this Dave and someone who we came to know as Deiniol Graham, scorer of that cracking Cup goal at QPR a few weeks later. A group of us (pissed up of course) thought it our duty to thank Russell for his Scouse busting goal the day before. Over and over again. We started chatting and perhaps because of the lack of females in the club, let alone admirers (I mean for them not us...), we all ended up drinking for the rest of the night together.

As the club closed they asked one of our lads staying in the hotel if we all fancied a drink on room service. We all staggered up to John's room and ordered a crate of Grolsch with those pathetic set of sandwiches with 8 token crisps that hotels still insist on serving. A good time was had by all, thankfully Beardsmore never tiring of us reliving his goal one more time, and after a few hours Russell, Graham and Dave headed home. A few moments later, a knock on the door as we were finishing off our drinks. John opened it only to be greeted with us all being hozed down by a fire extinguisher aimed at us through a gap in the door. They'd taken the one at the end of the corridor, used it all on us and then ran fleeing down the stairs.

Of course after the initial buzz of being sprayed by someone who helped beat Liverpool (not many people can say that in the world) the only option was for revenge. Thus the next 30 minutes saw one hell of a foam battle. All 8 of us split up to have a good old fire extinguisher fight. Now I know it's not big, it wasn't clever and what if there had been a fire that night (blah de blah de blah) but at the time and ever since I don't think I've ever laughed so much as we made those war paint sprayers who go out to the middle of the country to fire a few stupid pellets at each other look the prats they are. This is the
real stuff! We'd team up in small groups, then target each other individually.

The staff working the late shift had quickly cottoned on to the anarchy surrounding them and were chasing us throughout the hotel to get us to stop. Of course red rags to bulls and all that and they became the principle targets, especially the bouncers. The most active in all this were two highly rated Manchester United footballers, currently on the 2nd floor of the Britannia spraying the whole of the bottom floor reception from their prime sited bannister. I tell you, you'd be amazed at how much foam is in one of those fuckers.

It all came to an end as the police were called (part of the reason) as we all seemed to have used up nearly all theextinguishers (the main reason). Obviously there were a few closet Reds amongst the staff that night as one recognised Bearsdmore, realised that a budding career may well be put in jeopardy before its even started what with the dibble only a few minutes away and we managed to smuggle the three of them out of the hotel. Not before they thanked us
for a great night. We expected to get nicked, and didn't. We apologised and offered to pay the bill. Thinking we'd be sent a bill that would have John Paul Getty shitting himself and wondering if Beardsmore could be blackmailed (joking!), we were somewhat amazed and delighted to come across a total 'fine' of £60. Well worth it. But don't do that at home kids. Well, only at a Scouse player.

To this day we were fairly fortunate not to have been arrested during the mayhem. The things you do when younger eh!
We actually kept in touch with them after that, particularly Dave - who seemed to know everyone in Manchester. Beardsmore once greeted us as he took a corner during a friendly at Cambridge which was quite surreal and after he became a first team regular (of sorts) although his visits to Saturdays were less frequent he was always up for a laugh. Well, his abusive songs he kept singing about city (he was off his head) after the 5-1 were very funny. He hadn't taken the result well. Not that any of us had.

Graham always had a stunner on his arm and was as nice a bloke as they come. He said we could ring him for a beer anytime and although his career never took off they'll never be able to take that goal for United away from him. Bearsdmore obviously did the better of the two and although, as these things do, we lost touch over time, that Boro night did show that when supporter and player do meet up, there doesn't have to be a gulf between the two. It just depends on the player. Because they really are just like you and me in the end. Covered in bloody foam.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

David Jones on Dutch goals

reader Jan translates a Dutch article after his two goal return last week

"The fans were fantastic today. I wanted to reward them for their support. I scored twice, a very good start."

"I am used to play in the centre but here I have to play on the left. I start to learn it already and hope to develop myself a lot for the rest of the season."

The game itself wasn't only special for being it his debut in the "Goffert" or for scoring his first goals, also his dad was in the stands today.

"He will be satisfied today about my appearance"

What he is going to say to me?

"That I should have scored three, I think."

Fergie on future

"We will have no age worries in the squad for quite a few years, and my design is that the4y should all grow together and develop into a really effective team. I have been trying to do this for the past couple of seasons. Age catches up with everyone. Evolution happens in football. The target is to bring this team together. I am working for the future, as well as the present. I owe Manchester United my foresight. I am not going to leave this club in a shambles when I go. They have been too good to me for that. The manager who follows me will find that he inherits a squad in good shape, with quality players"

and speaking before qualifying for the League Cup Final

"I have always maintained that my remit as manager of a club such as United is to deliver one trophy every season. Obviously, we'd like more if possible, but one means we are all doing our jobs, so the Carling Cup represents a great opportunity to mark this season as a successful one, especially at a time of rebuilding"

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Gary Nev post Liverpool


"I WOULD love to talk only about our victory over Liverpool on Sunday, about how we battled through a tough game to secure a dramatic late win, but it seems that something negative always has to intrude these days.

The build-up to every big match we play seems to revolve around the idea that, if we lose, it will be the end of the world for Manchester United and, even if we win, you can be sure that someone will say that it doesn’t hide our failings. But it was a new one for me to hear people saying that I had celebrated too vigorously on Sunday.

Let us put it in context. Since I was a four-year-old, one of my dreams was to score a last-minute winner against Liverpool. When I was a kid, they were United’s fiercest rivals and, even now with the success that Arsenal and Chelsea have enjoyed, that remains the case.

That makes it the biggest domestic match of the season for us and the stakes are raised even higher when, in the week before, all you hear is people saying that Liverpool are the coming force, ready to shove United down the pecking order. Players listen to that kind of talk. They don’t just switch on when the match starts.

So then you battle through a tough match and, just when it looks as though it will end with a frustrating, but fair, draw, Rio Ferdinand scores a fantastic headed winner, a goal that has come out of nothing after 90 minutes of massive tension. What are you meant to do? Smile sweetly and jog back to the halfway line?

You are caught up in the moment and, yes, for a few seconds you can go bananas. I laughed when I heard someone say that it was not the behaviour of a 30-year-old because they are probably the same people who have accused us of lacking passion in recent games.

No disrespect to Liverpool was intended. I would have been apologetic if I had run up to one of their players and tried to belittle them, but this was a celebration.

Last week, I had to put up with a Liverpool lad taunting our fans during the Manchester derby, but at no point did I even consider that Robbie Fowler should be punished. The stick is part of the game. One week you take it on the chin, the next you give it out. That is how local rivals have always been — and always should be.

I had two plasterers in last week who insisted on wearing Manchester City hats and making a comment every time I walked past, but I don’t sack them for it. I have to put up with Liverpool fans singing plenty of songs about me, none of them tasteful, and I struggle to believe that I have caused them any grave offence with an exuberant celebration.

Increasingly people seem to want their footballers to be whiter than white and there are calls for sanctions over every little incident. Do they want a game of robots? If I was a Liverpool fan, my big upset would be losing the match. I have enough perspective on football to say that they didn’t deserve to and they will have come off wondering how on earth it happened. They have become a solid, consistent team with a real work ethic and some good players. That made it extra pleasing to win, but while my celebration may have caught the eye, people should also know that I was already thinking about the next game by the time I returned to the dressing-room.

Whatever people say about our attitude to the Carling Cup in recent years, we want to win that trophy. The second leg of our semi-final against Blackburn Rovers tomorrow is a massive game.

Manchester United 2005 Accounts

Annual Report 2005

Manchester United remains the most profitable football club in the world and the largest in terms of global brand revenues.
Change of Ownership
The period was notable for the announcement on 23 May 2005 of the offer by Red Football Limited, owned by the Glazer family, for the issued share capital of the company which it did not already hold. This offer led to Red Football acquiring 100% of Manchester United PLC on 27 September 2005 and its change of name to Manchester United Limited on 11 October 2005. The Board of Directors now consists of Joel Glazer, Avram Glazer, Bryan Glazer, Nick Humby, Andy Anson and myself, with the Board of Manchester United Football Club remaining unchanged.

Club Developments

Key Signings
The eleven months will also be remembered for a number of exciting developments around the Club, beginning with the acquisition of Wayne Rooney from Everton in August 2004 for an initial fee of £23 million plus costs (rising to a maximum of £27 million plus costs) and ending with the acquisition of Edwin van der Sar from Fulham in June 2005 for £1 million plus costs.

Stadium Expansion
Once again, the team played each of its FAPL games in front of sell-out 68,000 crowds. During last season, the Club secured the planning permission and awarded the construction contracts to build the new quadrant seating and executive facilities which will increase the capacity at Old Trafford to over 75,000 from the start of the 2006/07 season. The Club hopes that some of the additional seats will be available for use before the end of this season. Sales of the new executive seats are going exceptionally well, with more than three quarters of the new facilities already pre sold. In conjunction with the increase in capacity, we will be offering additional season tickets for which we anticipate very strong demand.

Team Performance
On the field the Club’s disappointment at not winning any silverware reflects the high standards that this Club expects to achieve. We went out over 2 legs in the European Champions League to the eventual finalists AC Milan, were defeated over 2 legs in the Carling Cup semi-final by the eventual winners, Chelsea, and lost narrowly on penalties to Arsenal in the FA Cup Final. A third place finish in the FAPL meant a qualifying tie against Debrecen of Hungary to enable us to qualify for the group stages of the Champions League for a UK record tenth consecutive time.

Financial Year End Change and Results
Subsequent to delisting from the London Stock Exchange, the Company has changed its financial year end to 30 June; reflecting the year-end date of players’ contracts and creating a more even split across the first and second halves. Although these accounts reflect an eleven month period, the Group Operating Profit before depreciation and amortisation of intangible assets and exceptional items, was £46.0 million; maintaining the Company’s position as the most profitable football club in the world, and in the eleven months generating £43.3 million in net cash inflow from operating activities. The exceptional item included £6.6 million in respect of professional fees and associated costs in relation to the takeover.

The drop in profits and cash generation from the previous year reflects mainly the impact of the media deals, with a reduction in the domestic FAPL revenue of £6.5 million following the new three year deal and a reduction of £7.6 million in Champions League media revenue mainly from finishing third in the FAPL in 2003/4 compared to first in 2002/3.

Player Trading and Agents
In the period, the Club incurred costs of £2.2 million (£5.5m in the previous year) in relation to agents, of which £1.5m was for the acquisition of Wayne Rooney, as announced in August 2004. This information will undoubtedly add to the debate into the transparency of the role of agents and the level of their fees. While the Club feels that disclosure is the right course of action, we do not believe it is helpful that Manchester United remains the only FAPL club to publish such figures. We will keep this issue under review, but the failure of others to publish comparable statistics will once again leave Manchester United to be criticised over this matter on behalf of the whole game – an untenable position in the long term.

The Future
Manchester United continues to be the world’s biggest football club based on its global brand revenues and profits. The value of the Manchester United name with its huge and loyal fan base remains strong. The Company estimates that the total revenue generated by the Club from its sale of branded products and services, and those by its apparel and merchandising partner, Nike, and its media partners in the full twelve-month period to July 2005, exceeded £200 million. The Club is in detailed discussions with a number of top companies to be only our third shirt sponsor in over 20 years and is confident of securing the most lucrative deal in its history.

We believe that Old Trafford, the biggest Club stadium in the UK, will continue to develop as a year round venue, and new developments like the new £43 million quadrant facilities will enhance our ability to achieve that.

Everyone at the Club is determined to ensure that we continue to challenge successfully for every trophy over the coming years. Our excellent squad has been strengthened in the January transfer window with significant investment in both Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra. Further sums will be available, as necessary, to improve the squad in the summer.

The new ownership structure has established itself quickly, and the Club once again returned to being a private company - as it has been for all but 14 of its 128 year history. The year ahead has many challenges, but the Board believes that the Club is equipped to compete and to continue to grow its global revenues.

David A Gill, Chief Executive, Manchester United Limited
Monday 23 January 2006

Carragher on Neville celebration after last minute Rio winner

"I think there is a line and Neville crossed it. I've heard people say it's justified because he gets a lot of stick from the Liverpool fans, but the truth is he gets the stick because he's been doing that for years. That's why it all started. I feel the same way about Liverpool as Neville does about Manchester United and from that point of view we're similar, but I don't act like that when we score against United. If I did, I'd expect United fans to give me the same amount of abuse."

"I don't act like that when we score against United. If I did, I'd expect United fans to give me the same amount of abuse."

We had a high volume of readers contact us in disgust about the fuss being made over Gary Nev's celebrations. As one said: "Do we whine away like the angry we were about Robbie Fowler we don't try and get official investigations to be launched." Another said as we suggested yesterday, why nobody picked up on the sick chants from the away end about: "Are you watching Georgie Best".

Remember Paul Ince cupping his ear and racing towards the Utd section in the 2-2 draw? We didn't moan, however much we fumed. It's a dull day when we expect players to give a slight pat on the back to goalscorers in games like this and shout out 'Jolly ho Tarquin".

As for Carragher having a pop. Now where do we start?

What about him throwing the coin back to Arsenal fans at Highbury. Is that inciting?

Perhaps it's best his Dad wasn't there yesterday to get angry and call for Gary Nev to be hung. His Dad can't go because he got nicked, pi**ed up watching his son.

And Tufty sent this in:

"Chief whinger Carragher has been happy covering reporters faces in phlegm today, with his obsessive comments on Gary Neville. Now let's cast our minds back to last September, the venue Anfield, the time was 15 mins after the game finished. United fans were kept back in the ground and out comes the Liverpool team, the United fans start singing "Wimbledon, Wimbledon" in relation to Liverpools long ball game.

Most the Liverpool players give no reaction to this, apart from Carragher who then starts making gestures towards the United fans, holding up his fingers and making other actions.

So tell me again Mr Carragher, what was it you said about Nevilles actions?

Greg Dyke on United debt

"Manchester United was always incredibly well run. They built that whole ground out of hard cash flow. They had no debt until Mr Glazer decided to buy it and stick so much debt on it. The club didn't need it as it didn't have any debt but now it is saddled with a phenomenal amount. If you suddenly don't get into the Champions League, the economics of it don't work. The club didn't take the risks - it was the Glazers who took the risks. I was at Manchester United in the years that they won almost everything. I was there when Rupert Murdoch tried to buy it and I was largely the one person who opposed it. I think Manchester United didn't need Sky any more than it needed the Glazers."

MUST response to Gill on Radio 5

United Chief Executive David Gill was on BBC Radio 5 this morning (Sunday), giving us a sneak preview of the Manchester United 2004/5 financial results, in advance of official release tomorrow. Below are the highlights, with our view of the significance. However they are spun, the results are not good for the club or for the Glazers.

These figures are for the 11 month period to 30 June 2005, the Glazers having brought the financial year end forward by one month when they took over.

Operating profit (EBITDA) £46m (2004 - £58m) = down £12m
Pre-tax Profit (P-TP) £12m (2004 - £27m) = down £15m
Agents fees £2.2m
Takeover costs (legal, banking) £6.6m

Gill said on R5 the future is bright for United and the forecast for 2006/7 is “very good” but refused to confirm that the EBITDA numbers would be as good as 2004 (£58m).

He also confirmed that Fergie is in the job for “years to come” (as long as he wants?) and the Glazers are in agreement with that.

MUST comment:

1.EBITDA is down due to (i) FAPL revenue decline of £6m for finishing 3rd and (ii) Champions League earlier exit in 2005. Contrary to Glazer’s business plan expectations, EBITDA and P-TP are heading south and next year’s figures will not be helped by this year’s even earlier exit from the CL at group stage, declining attendances & ticket demand at OT* and (we hear) falling merchandise and other sales. Drastic price rises or new revenue-generators are desperately needed by the Glazers.

2.This year’s figures did not include any significant debt interest element, as most of the debt was put onto the club after the June 2005 year end. But next year, P-TP will be hit by a debt service bill of £63.6m (interest on the £374m JP Morgan loans plus £19m repayment of bridge loan). We forecast nil or near-nil Net Cash for transfers next year, meaning that to fund player purchases over the summer, Glazer will have to dip into his own funds. He has been selling his companies in the US, so perhaps we can now see why.

3.The hedge funds will be able to appoint 25% of the Boards of Red Football and United if EBITDA are not at least £48.5m in 2006 and £75.7m in 2007. It’s looking tough. The forecast EBITDA for 2008 is £107.7m – how on earth do Glazer and his banks think he can reach this number with everything pointing the other way?

4.P-TP for 2005 was also hit by the £6.6m fees Utd spent on fighting the takeover, but note that Glazer’s own fees to banks and lawyers were somewhere between £30-40m and these have been loaded onto United in the form of additional debt. The combined total of all fees spent on this takeover (more than £40m) would have paid for at least two world class midfielders.

* Total recorded attendances at OT this season (from the official MU site) for the first 14 home games (incl. cup games):

= 881,136

Capacity at OT for those 14 games @ 67,800 = 949,200

Total attendance as % of capacity: 92.82%

Lost revenue to date @ average £30 per ticket £2,041,920

We can assume that, based on previous years home attendances at close to 100%, this decline was not in the business plan. There is a significant drop in the cup games since even last year – e.g. there was a full gate in the 3rd round FA Cup tie against non-league Exeter in Jan. 2005.

Demand for tickets to United games has up to now always well outstripped supply – two years ago, we were told by the club, demand was average 12,000 over capacity for every home game. This season? Close to zero. How to tell - look at the MU website before every home game. Tickets are always available, sometimes on general sale at the gate on matchday. Cheap tickets are offered by email to local schools, even for some PL games – we have evidence of this. Executive packages are regularly offered at half price and it is no longer difficult to get tickets for a game (other than the big ones - Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea and Man City).

We are also hearing of United’s possible plan to offer frozen season ticket prices next year, but ST holders may be forced to buy an additional 6 domestic cup tickets as well – so a ST costing £540 now could cost £725 next year for 25 games (some other clubs do this). Subscription to the automatic cup ticket scheme has collapsed and there must be a real concern about this year’s and next year’s cup attendances. Although this proposal would be intended to ensure that cup attendance and matchday income remains high, it remains to be seen how fans will react to being asked to pay much more upfront than they have historically. Worse still - there seems to be no plan for refunds if United fail to play 6 or more cup games.

For anyone wanting to know what EBITDA means (from Nick)

Also, EBITDA can be called revenues less the direct costs of running the business (like salaries), but before additional costs (like Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization ).

Banks also use EBITDA to measure whether a business can afford loans (interest and repayment) and the JPM loan agreements will have covenants in case United breach the EBTDA targets. United’s EBITDA looked healthy for a few years, but may have peaked. So JPM and the hedge funds will not be pleased with these results.

Expect some drastic action to find new areas of profit and increase existing revenues.

Jeff Winter from his book

his autobiography Who's the B*****d in the Black? (Ebury Press €28).

"United were lucky to win a caution-free game 1-0 but, while Keegan took it on the chin this time and shook my hand, Fergie was unhappy - I could tell by the glare in his eyes. He was about to do a television interview in the tunnel and just as I was walking past him, he shouted "Back to your usual self, Jeff, f***ing useless." I hadn't a clue what he was talking about and allowed the comment to go over my head. I could have reported it, but thought better to put it down to the heat of the moment. If every such incident were reported there would be a steady stream of managers and players going to FA disciplinary hearings every week and we wouldn't have time for anything else"

on August 2004 during the Newcastle game

"I have tremendous respect for Ferguson's achievements as a manager, but his mind games don't enhance the image of the game and his arrogance has led to him being an unpopular figure. Ryan Giggs was in full flight and was challenged by Andy O'Brien. United screamed for a free kick and a sending-off for O'Brien. But it wasn't a foul. Assistant referee Russell Booth kept his flag down and referee Uriah Rennie
waved play on. Fergie was incensed. The face turned its familiar shade of red as he leapt from his seat, ran outside the technical area and screamed: ‘You f***ing cheating b******!' at Russell. Fergie furiously kicked the ball back on to the field and again shouted: ‘You
f***ing cheat!' at Russell. As fourth official, I buzzed Uriah and told him what Fergie said. Uriah dismissed the United manager from the dugout. As Fergie walked up the tunnel he shouted at me, not once, but twice: ‘You're a f***ing joke.' Anybody who can lip-read could work out what Fergie had said — the whole incident was shown on TV. There is no way Uriah or his assistant would ever cheat and to have implied they were by using the word ‘cheat' is out of order. It is an abusive personal remark that a referee will not tolerate. Swearing is one thing, but accusing officials of cheating is a massive slur."

It all started to get rather naughty and sinister and it appeared there was a campaign, orchestrated by United, to iscredit me and get Fergie off the hook. The FA asked me to make a statement because there had been an implication from United that I had stage-managed the incident involving Fergie to help my proposed documentary. What a load of b******s. Fergie's actions left me no alternative. The FA's compliance officer told me he had recommended to Fergie that he accept the charge — and bearing in mind his previous good disciplinary record (obviously other referees had ignored barbed post-match comments as I had done) he would probably only be reprimanded. But Fergie refused the advice. He appeared to have only two aims: to discredit
me and have the charges dropped. The hearing was the most traumatic few hours of my career. There was Fergie, looking stern with an icy glare in my direction. With him was Manchester United solicitor Maurice Watkins and two legal staff. The FA had sent their own prosecutor — it was just like any court case. Fergie had brought Watkins with him for good reason. It was clear they were putting me on trial. United brought in several witnesses and read out a number of statements, all saying Fergie had not used the words I had reported. He did, however, admit to swearing but felt swearing at someone was not abusive language. His arrogance shone through. He thought calling one of the officials a ‘cheat' was harmless and couldn't see that he'd done anything wrong. My testimony was dissected, witnesses were called, all stating Fergie hadn't done anything wrong and suggesting my attitude had been provocative. I just waited for the screening of the video that would show Fergie clearly using foul and abusive language. However, I was in for another surprise. I expected the video to show the incident in its entirety. But it didn't — the incriminating parts were missing. I was astounded. Why didn't the tape show Fergie swearing when everybody watching on TV had seen exactly what happened? Had somebody edited it? It was like a murder trial without the forensic evidence. I asked the FA prosecutor: ‘What the hell happened to the video?' He replied: ‘We could not get an unedited copy.' I suggested ‘If it hadn't been a club with the clout of Manchester United there would have been a proper tape.' He smiled and said ‘Tell them about it in your book.'

When you consider the incident had been shown on TV and the FA couldn't lay their hands on an unedited version, his reply was unbelievable. Somebody must have taped the match, so who provided the edited version? It had been a torrid experience for me because my integrity and honesty had been questioned. Fortunately, the disciplinary board believed me. Fergie was banned from the touchline for two matches and fined — but I felt like the guilty man."

United statement on Paul Scholes

Paul Scholes has a medical condition affecting the vision in his right eye. It is not a football related injury. This has been confirmed by a number of specialists who have all agreed that he needs to rest for a period of three months. Obviously it is a disappointment for Paul and Manchester United that he will miss the rest of this season. We look forward to having him back for pre-season training.