"The death of Malcolm Glazer will be mourned more by some than by others," is a diplomatic way of putting it but those who lose sight of the human loss of a father by his children let themselves down. Yet nor should the fact of someone's death cause us to lose perspective regarding their life.
Sky Sports News showed a 2005 press conference at which a bashful Malcolm refused to answer questions about the recent purchase of Manchester United, at which the Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner offered "just a smile". The script continued: "Even though he wasn't closely involved, the purchase of the club certainly led to success on the field for Manchester United," which was followed by a graphic showing that in the nine seasons after the Glazer purchase, the club won five Premier Leagues, one Champions League, one Club World Cup, three League Cups and - including David Moyes's triumph against Wigan - five Community Shields.
It was a three-letter word that prompted a four-letter response, the offending term being 'led'. There is a philosophical fallacy known as post hoc ergo propter hoc - the notion that because an event happened after another it must have been caused by it. It's the kind of error that caused our ancestors to blame defeat in battle on the contents of a slaughtered animal's entrails and right after that 'led', I could see ritual sacrifice making a comeback.
That is some trophy haul in the nine seasons after Malcolm Glazer proved United really were for sale. Yet in the nine seasons ending in 2005, United also won five Premier League titles, one Champions League and one Intercontinental Cup, the Club World Cup's predecessor. Though they came up empty in their one League Cup final, they did manage two FA Cup wins instead and, alongside all that silverware, falling short in the Community Shield stakes (two rather than five) is of little consequence. The Glazer purchase did not make United successful; rather United's success enabled the Glazers to make the purchase and slowly pay for it with the club's own money.
It was inaction - leaving Sir Alex Ferguson to carry on largely as before - rather than action that was the catalyst for the trophy haul. United were trohyless in 2004 and 2005 and did look severely challenged by Roman Abramovich's largesse at Chelsea. But the instability of the oligarch's relationship with Jose Mourinho had nothing to do with United's new owners and the key figures in the club's on-the-pitch revival - Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney - had already been signed. The first major personnel decisions the Glazers have had to make - after the retirements of Ferguson and David Gill - have been failures, a total one in the case of Moyes.
Of course, football fans - and especially those of United - know all this. And maybe even the club do. While the Buccaneers were effusive, United stuck to a low-key statement on the website, extending condolences to the family.
As the Manchester United Supporters' Trust put it on Twitter: 'In terms of the effect of the Glazer takeover - massive damage to MUFC fanbase and minus £1billion from our club.'
Some United fans will react foolishly to Glazer's death, just as some of the protests down the years have shown a frightening lack of proportion. But his passing does not alter the facts of a highly leveraged takeover that weakened rather than strengthened a football force that, under Ferguson, could only be challenged in recent years by massive injections of cash from outside the game. What the takeover 'led' to was a fracturing of the connection between an institution and a substantial part of the community that gave it life. Something that seemed in part organic became more and more synthetic.
It is the Glazer sons and daughter who have run things for the family and nothing will change with Malcolm's death. So, while a respectful attitude is appropriate for now, we should expect the entirely justified resentment to remain.
Eloquent and elegant writing, Phil. One of the best articles I've seen on this site.- red_ped