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FOOTBALL: Glazer fights back; MAN UTD TAKEOVER FERGIE AND BOBBY CHARLTON WILL STAY THE CLUB WON'T BE RUN FROM FLORIDA 'ABSURD' TO CLAIM BADGE WILL CHANGE.

Byline: paul SMITH

THE hate campaign against Malcolm Glazer and his family in the wake of their takeover at Manchester United has reached fever pitch.

And through it all the target of the condemnation has remained silent.

But that silence has been imposed by Stock Exchange rules, which have bound the Glazers not to comment before 3pm tomorrow.

However, Sunday Mirror Sport has managed to unearth a source close to the Glazer camp who spoke out to set the record straight in advance of the deadline.

And what emerges should come as some consolation to worried United fans. The source insisted:

It was "inconceivable" that the Glazers would run the club from their Florida base using video phones;

Suggestions that the club's badge could be changed were "absurd";

The family are "horrified" by suggestions that Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Bobby Charlton are on their way out of Old Trafford.

The source said: "It's time for people to apply common sense to the situation."

Malcolm Glazer's takeover of Manchester United began in early 2003 and neared completion last month when he finally acquired the shares of major shareholders John Magnier and JP McManus.

Rebel shareholders and fans' groups have mounted a concerted backlash. Glazer's decision to borrow pounds 374m and raise a further pounds 275m through preferred securities has understandably caused concern.

It is inconceivable that in order to meet hefty borrowing the Glazer family would not have a business plan in place to meet their debt.

Although the camp strenuously deny that anything is written in stone - following revelations on Friday that ticket prices will rise by 54 per cent in the next five years - the club's future depends on trebling profits and the annual transfer budget will be restricted to pounds 25m.

The source claimed: "Naturally a business plan will be put into place but suggestions that that plan is already written in stone are inaccurate.

"Glazer will not put his investment and the club at risk. You only have to look at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to see that is not the case. They prospered under the family's ownership and a team once regarded as NFL no-hopers won their first SuperBowl title in 2003."

Last week it was claimed the family would conduct board meetings via video phones from their Florida home, redesign the club's badge and threaten the long-term future of two of the club's leading figures, Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Bobby Charlton.

The Glazer camp insist on setting the record straight. The source said: "It is inconceivable to think the family can run Manchester United Football Club from Florida via video phones.

"Naturally, depending on the circumstances, there will be times when it's appropriate to conduct business from the family's home base. But it wouldn't be wrong to presume that the owners will be in personal attendance for key meetings and decisions."

It is likely Malcolm's 43-year-old son Joel, who led the takeover discussions, will be appointed chairman of the club and could take up permanent residence in the UK.

The idea that the Glazers plan to redesign the club's badge brought the strongest denial possible. "Quite frankly, that is an absurd suggestion. The badge is very fabric of what makes the brand so strong.

"It is recognised the world over, so why would the family even consider a change?"

And to suggest the position of Sir Alex, who will complete 19 years in the job in November, would come under scrutiny has horrified the Glazers.

The source said: "The Glazers are determined to ensure continuity and success prevails at Manchester United and Sir Alex is a key player in those plans. Suggestions that his position is under threat are way off the mark.

"Sir Alex has a future at the club for as long as wishes."

As for Sir Bobby Charlton, the source added: "Those particular claims have horrified the family, who hold Sir Bobby in the highest esteem possible.

"In all likelihood he will have a more active role because the family recognise that Sir Bobby is a historical and respected figure at Manchester United the world over.

"As far as the Glazers are concerned, like Sir Alex, Sir Bobby has a guarantee of life employment by the club's new owners."

Another claim firmly rebuffed was that the Glazers plan to raise funds by selling Old Trafford and leasing it back.

CAPTION(S):

AT THE EYE OF THE STORM: Malcolm Glazer
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 12, 2005
Words:739
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