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Man Utd fans vow to fight takeover

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Man Utd fans are upset about Malcolm Glazer's attempt to take over the team.
• Red Devils poised for profit plunge
What effect will Malcolm Glazer's control of Manchester United have on the team?
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Manchester United
Malcolm Glazer

LONDON, England -- Manchester United fans are promising a war of attrition against U.S. sports tycoon Malcolm Glazer after he took control of the world's richest soccer club.

Supporters' groups, whose opposition helped prevent a 1999 takeover by satellite television company BSkyB, demonstrated on Thursday at Old Trafford, home of the most famous club in British football, to voice their anger.

Fans say Glazer has no knowledge of the football side of the club and is interested purely in its brand, rivalled only by Real Madrid, and revenues.

They fear his £790 million ($1.49 billion) offer will saddle United with heavy debts, forcing up ticket prices and diverting funds which could be used to improve the team which finished a disappointing third this season.

Glazer began a takeover bid of the team by becoming its majority shareholder.

His ownership reached 56.9 percent after he bought a 28.7 percent share held by Irish racehorse owners J.P. McManus and John Magnier.

Financial analysts said the deal seemed certain to succeed, and suggested Glazer's ownership could quickly reach the critical 75 percent threshold.

At that level, he could take the club private.

Late Thursday, the BBC reported Glazer reached the 70 percent ownership level, without giving details.

Oliver Houston, of Shareholders United, told Reuters: "He's got himself an extremely tainted asset -- this is by no means over.

"Even if Glazer succeeds in getting all-out control, the campaign by fans to show that no customers equals no profits will continue.

"If that means starving ourselves, and starving the club of income, in order to make this parasite detach himself from us, then so be it," Houston told SkySports News.

Stockmarket analysts believe that there is little anti-Glazer supporters can do to prevent the takeover if city institutions decide 300 pence a share is a fair price.

United has won the European Cup twice, the league title 15 times and been the dominant side in England for the past decade under manager Alex Ferguson, who has been in charge since 1986.

The 1958 Munich air crash, which decimated the team, increased the club's mystique as did players like Bobby Charlton, George Best, Denis Law and, more recently, Frenchman Eric Cantona and England captain David Beckham, now with Real Madrid.

Old Trafford is the biggest club ground in England, holding 68,000. United want to increase this to almost 76,000 which will still not be big enough to contain the number of fans from all over the world who want to watch the Red Devils.

United estimate their global fan base at more than 75 million, including 40 million in Asia and just 4.6 million in the Americas where Glazer, owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers American football team, has marketing expertise.

Glazer's bid comes at an awkward time for the club and their frustrated fans.

United has been eclipsed by Chelsea, owned and funded by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, this season and has now gone two years without winning the English title, unknown since the early '90s.

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