David Beckham, The Green & Gold

By Ian  |   The Ball  |   March 12, 2010  |     11

The Champions League match between Manchester United and Milan had been punctuated by what are now starting to become familiar images. The green and gold gold scarves and the “Love United Hate Glazer” flags are starting to feel like part of the furniture at Old Trafford, but the question that was on many people’s lips could probably best be summarised by a four letter acronym: WWDD? Beckham’s appearance on the pitch had been greeted with, in rapid succession, cheers, boos and laughter and, while he didn’t disgrace himelf on the pitch, his presence on the pitch was in itself a sign of the times – a practical demonstration of the gulf in quality between Manchester United and Milan. Some people have talked of the end of the Premier League’s hegemony in the Champions League his season, but the difference between Manchester United and Milan on Wednesday night was clear. Milan, to put it simply, had players that were too old or too average.

At full-time, Beckham left the pitch and a green and gold scarf was thrown towards him. Perhaps predictably (and to the delight of a large proportion of the crowd), he put it around his neck. If they were hoping that he would come out in public as an opponent of the Glazers or, as some had hoped, as an investor in the Red Knights consortium, it was to be a disappointing evening. Beckham’s post-match interview studiously avoided rocking the boat too much and he was never going to put himself in a position that placed him anywhere other than firmly in the middle ground. Yeah, he said, he was a fan of the club, and of course it was a shame to see it tearing itself apart, but it was not the moment that some in the anti-Glazer group had hoped. David Beckham, who has spent much of the last decade and a half cultivating a public persona that could easily be interpreted as “all things to all people”, wouldn’t nail his colours to any mast unless those colours were neutral. David Beckham, personality-wise, has always been the football equivalent of magnoils.

The other telling image of the evening was Avram Glazer, laughing as the chants against he and his family got louder and louder. Maybe it was an act of bravado. Maybe it was an open act of contempt aimed at those that are so vocally attacking him and his family at the moment. The effect was strangely chilling. The Glazers, the message read loud and clear, aren’t going anywhere. And this is the problem for the green and gold protests. The Glazers may have a moral responsibility to leave the club, but they had no moral reasons for buying the club in the first place. The issue of whether they should leave the club or not is already a redundant one. We already know that they should. There is nothing illegal about what they are doing at Old Trafford, either. Perhaps there should be some sort of laws against cultural vandalism, but that is a different matter. It’s the fundamental weakness in the green and gold process. The Glazers won’t go anywhere unless they want to, and they don’t have to either. There are no shareholders to please other than themselves, and, if they want to strip the cupboard bare on the way out, then no-one can stop them from doing that, either.

The symbolic phase of the anti-Glazer protests, then, has done its job. There can be few people left that don’t understand at all why Manchester United supporters are protesting against the Glazer family’s of the club, and it seems pretty clear that there are very few Manchester United supporters that are prepared, for now, to take the next step and boycott Old Trafford before the end of this season. A boycott would be more effective. The Glazers aren’t at the club for the love of Manchester United. They’re there for the money. There is more of a chance of flushing them out through hitting them in the pocket, but this doesn’t appear to be happening to any significant extent yet. It is, therefore, not unreasonable to say that the wearing of green and gold scarves is little more than a fashion. The real test for Manchester United supporters will come at the end of this season, when season tickets for next season go on sale. That will be the tipping point for any protest against the club. People can arguably be forgiven for not giving up season tickets that they have already paid for, but if they buy them for next season they will be propping up the Glazer family in their continuing presence at Old Trafford, and this uncomfortable truth will cause a large number of people a degree of anguish over the course of the close season. It has never been suggested that such a decision was going to be an easy one to make.

In many respects, David Beckham mirrors the support that cheered him on Wednesday night. Wearing a scarf is easy. Saying that you are not going to renew your season ticket is easy. Actually making that decision when push comes to shove is considerably less so and, while Beckham can walk away from Old Trafford and back to Milan, confident that he has been successful in his goal of being all things to all men, for the ordinary supporters of Manchester United, it’s not quite as straightforward. They are stuck with Manchester United for life, whether they want to be or not. The question now is this: will they have the resolve to take the action that may just have a chance of removing the Glazer family by hitting them where it hurts and not renewing their season tickets in the summer. One hundred and thirty thousand members of the Manchester United Supporters Trust and Old Trafford awash with green and gold is one thing, but these on their own will not get rid of them.

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Ian

Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.

Comments
  • March 12, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    Tom

    I’ll not renew and neither will the 3 mates I sit with in the Stretford End (not West Stand FFS). The price at £750 + compulsory cup games was already stretching some of us, now the time has come. I’d rather watch the games in the Bishps Blaze than put another penny in the Gimps from Florida’s pockets.

  • March 12, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    Brenton

    Is there anything to the idea that the protest is particularly vitriolic because the owners are Jewish? I read it hypothesized elsewhere today.

  • March 12, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    Jim

    @Brenton. No. American possibly, but not Jewish.

    Season-ticket renewals and sales for 10-11 at MUFC are *massively down. There is some talk of ST holders placing their ST money in a MUST account, with STs guaranteed when the Glazers sell. And I think it is a question of when, not if. Revenues from merchandising are down – and if that affects the new shirt sponsorship deal then the Glazers may very well be ready to sell before the end of 2011. Much of this “not for sale” posturing is simply a bargaining position to maximise the sale price.

    As for Beckham, it has never been about what he *says* but what he *does*. As someone else (possibly Pitch Invasion?) pointed out, there has never been a footballer more aware of the *image*. And the *image* of Beckham with a green and gold scarf around his neck is far more potent than him coming out and saying, death to the Glazers. The Glazers are clearly rattled, despite Avram’s demeanour – hence the embargo on players speaking to the press about the campaign and the draconian attitude taken by the club towards the protest, which has echoes of communist China about it (see http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2010/mar/12/manchester-united-ban-players-glazers). I’m happy to offer anyone a £10 charity bet that the Glazers will be gone from United before December 31 2011.

  • March 12, 2010 at 6:52 pm

    Jim

    Sorry – that link again.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2010/mar/12/manchester-united-ban-players-glazers

  • March 12, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    David Beckham, The Green & Gold « Scissors Kick

    […] David Beckham, The Green & Gold “The Champions League match between Manchester United and Milan had been punctuated by what are now starting to become familiar images. The green and gold gold scarves and the “Love United Hate Glazer” flags are starting to feel like part of the furniture at Old Trafford, but the question that was on many people’s lips could probably best be summarised by a four letter acronym: WWDD? Beckham’s appearance on the pitch had been greeted with, in rapid succession, cheers, boos and laughter and, while he didn’t disgrace himelf on the pitch, his presence on the pitch was in itself a sign of the times – a practical demonstration of the gulf in quality between Manchester United and Milan.” (twohundredpercent) […]

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