Explainer-Manchester United: what are the key issues?

By Manasi Pathak

(Reuters) - Manchester United's owners, the Glazer family, have been the target of intense criticism with the team last winning silverware back in 2017, lifting the Europa League and League Cup trophies.

The club are now on their longest drought in four decades.


United, currently managed by Erik ten Hag, are fourth in the Premier League standings on 38 points after 18 games, one point behind their local rivals Manchester City but nine adrift of leaders Arsenal.

Although the team are making good progress under new coach Ten Hag, the Dutch manager needs the backing of the club and their owners if they are to return to their glory days, when they were considered one of the heavyweights in European soccer.

In recent years, United have fallen into the shadow of City, who won their fourth league title in five years in 2022 and also reached the Champions League final in 2020-21.

Many of the club's supporters have complained that the Glazers' debt-laden buyout of the team starved it of funds and that the owners needed to spend more to attract and retain talent and win trophies.

When United, like City, tried to spend big in the transfer market, most of those signings proved to be underwhelming at best, including the likes of Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku.

Meanwhile, City have tasted success with the likes of Erling Haaland, Kevin De Bruyne, Ruben Diaz and Riyad Mahrez.

Apart from fighting City, United are also facing competition from Saudi-backed Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur in the race to secure a top-four spot this season.


United's home ground, Old Trafford, has not been redeveloped since 2006 and the Glazer family has been criticised by fans and former players for neglecting the club's home and training facilities.

"You look at the club now, this stadium - I know it looks great here (on TV) but if you go behind the scenes it's rusty and rotting," former United captain Gary Neville said in 2020.

"The training ground is probably not even top five in this country, they haven't got to a Champions League semi-final in years and we haven't won a league here for years," he added.

A new owner will likely need to put more money into the club to fix these issues.


The club's Supporters Trust, MUST, has demanded a real say in how the club is run in future, saying "any new ownership structure must embed supporters, including a degree of fan share ownership, in their operating model".

Supporters have sought a change of ownership for more than a decade and the clamour has grown louder with a lack of success on the field.

United's net debt, a serious bone of contention among fans, had grown by nearly 23% to 515 million pounds ($565.78 million) by September and will be another headache for the new owners.

The failure of top European clubs – including Manchester United – to set up a breakaway Super League also means that players will continue to keep a disproportionate share of the financial spoils.

Any buyer will need deep pockets and patience.

(Reporting by Manasi Pathak in Bengaluru and Martyn Herman in London; Editing by Nick Macfie)