A first impression is often a good indicator of what is to come, so the evening of June 30, 2005, would have told the Glazer family -- the American businessmen who have owned the Tampa Bay Buccaneers since 1995 -- all they needed to know about the road ahead for their ownership of Manchester United.
Having flown in to visit Old Trafford for the first time as owners, word got out that Joel, Bryan and Avram Glazer were inside the stadium, meeting senior figures and surveying the prize they had recently acquired. They had managed to get in unnoticed, but it was a different story as they attempted to get out. Hundreds of United supporters, chanting "Die, Die, Glazer," tried to enter the stadium, prompting the deployment of riot police and dog handlers. Fans erected barriers to stop the Glazers from leaving Old Trafford, forcing officers to bundle the trio into a police van in order to evacuate them safely.
"Life is not going to be at all easy for them [the Glazers]," Nick Towle, of Shareholders United, a group of fans who held shares in the club, said at the time. "I don't think they realise the full scale of the reception that awaits them. The hard-core fans will not give in this battle."
The message was clear: The Glazers were not welcome at Manchester United, despite club director and legendary former player, Sir Bobby Charlton, apologising to the new owners for the actions of the supporters.
"I apologised to them for what happened," Charlton said. "I tried to explain they couldn't ignore the fans, who are so emotionally involved in the club, but who sometimes do go a bit too far."
Seventeen years on, the United supporters are still protesting against the Glazers, who completed that £790 million takeover of the Premier League's most successful team by investing just £270m of their own money into the deal -- the rest was borrowed against United, instantly plunging the club into more than £500m worth of debt.
Until that point, United had been debt-free. Although listed on the London Stock Exchange with annual dividends for shareholders, profits were put back into the club, allowing Sir Alex Ferguson to sign Wayne Rooney for £27 million in 2004. Between 1992 and 2005, United almost doubled the size of Old Trafford from a 40,000-capacity stadium to one that held 75,000 fans. Success bred success and investment, but under the Glazers, debt repayments and interest charges were added to the mix.
Since 2005, through successful times -- 13 trophies, including a Champions League win -- and otherwise, fans have targeted the club's sponsors, vandalized and protested outside the properties of various club board members. In May 2021, they broke into Old Trafford, successfully forcing the postponement of a Premier League game against Liverpool.
Despite the fury and hatred they generate among the United fan base, the Glazers remain in control, but there is a growing sense of optimism among supporters and that the endgame is about to be played.