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Oct 8, 2009

Glazers unconcerned by Edwards' criticism

Manchester United and the Glazers have refused to comment on former United chairman Martin Edwards' questioning of the potentially perilous financial state of the club should the American owners "exit" Old Trafford.

However, ESPNsoccernet has been told by sources close to both the owners and the Manchester United board that supporters should be aware that the Glazers still have no intention of selling up and getting out.

Edwards, now an honorary life president at Old Trafford, became the first voice at boardroom level to question the way the Glazer family run the club.

"It concerns me that the club are in so much debt," Edwards said. "The club are not in control; that family are in control of the debt. I can understand where the fans are coming from with their concerns. The crunch time will come when they [the Glazers] exit. Will they saddle the club with the debt or just sell the club on for a profit because that's all they are interested in? How will they leave the club?

"I'm not going to make any accusations because up to now they have behaved fairly well, supporting the manager, and they haven't disrupted the running of the club or the personnel. Time will tell."

The Glazers and the Manchester United board felt nothing new had been said by Edwards, however the phrase "the crunch time will come when they exit", has opened old wounds about suspicions that the Glazers plan to make a profit and sell. It has also unnecessarily reignited the debate about the high leverage of the club since the Glazers borrowed so heavily to buy it, and are obliged to pay back huge interest per year.

However, there were stories a year ago about a £1 billion bid from China, and whether that was fact or tabloid fiction, the Glazers had no intention of cashing in then - nor, indeed, would they sell now.

The background to Edwards' comments, and perceived criticism of the Glazers regime, is now known to ESPN Soccernet, who have been told it was an interview conducted some time ago for a book, Andy Mitten's Glory, Glory that has now just been published.

Edwards' position will not be affected, but it must equally be stressed that he holds an honorary position and no longer plays any part in the running or decision making process of the club.

Equally, Edwards, the man who hired Sir Alex Ferguson and spent 22 years as United chairman between 1980 to 2002, endured strong criticisms of his own chairmanship, most notably when he recommended to the club's shareholders that they accept a £623 million takeover bid from BSkyB.

"I thought Sky would have taken Manchester United to a level where nobody could have got near us," he explained. "That's why I recommended their offer in 1998. When they approached us, we had gone 30 years without winning the European Cup. I felt that they could have pushed us on to the next level."

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