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Last Updated: Sunday, 6 May 2007, 17:41 GMT 18:41 UK
The Glazer family v Roman Abramovich
By John May

US and Russia flags
Manchester United have emerged triumphant from English football's own version of the Cold War.

American-owned Manchester United has fought with Russian-backed Chelsea in a conflict full of intrigue and ideological differences - in which there has been little détente.

But just as the original Cold War was a global battle for hearts and minds, so in the end, the victors were able to claim the moral high ground.

The American ideology of freedom, as practised by the Glazers, proved successful over the tighter control imposed by Roman Abramovich.

THE LAND OF THE FREE

For all the fears expressed by Manchester United fans on the takeover of the club by the Glazers, the Americans have been true to their flag.

They have backed United manager Sir Alex Ferguson with financial clout when he needed it and, more importantly, left him alone to manage.

The Glazers are experienced in owning sporting teams and know that the business will only succeed if there is success on the pitch.

When they bought the Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFL outfit, it was moribund. But they invested in players and new coaches - firstly Tony Dungy and then Jon Gruden, under whom they won the Superbowl.

In Manchester United, the Glazers were buying into a highly successful outfit, with arguably the best manager in the business. They would have been forewarned that Ferguson would have no truck with interference and to meddle would be to risk losing him.

THE YOKE OF ROMAN RULE

Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has had to contend with a degree of interference, even if Abramovich's controlling reins may not have been as tight as Stalin's.

Abramovich owns the club, pumps the money in and reserves the right to stick his oar in if he sees the need.

Former Blues boss Claudio Ranieri had one season to prove himself to Abramovich before he was packed off - and Mourinho has not had a clear deck.

Abramovich insists Mourinho always has the last say in team matters but he also admitted in a recent interview in The Observer newspaper: "I cannot say I am completely not involved in buying players. But my role would be significantly lower than that of the manager's."

Mourinho also admitted there were "tensions" in his relationship with Abramovich.

But as they survey the ruins of their season, Chelsea fans will question the transfer policy that appears to be dictated more by their owner than by the man on the shop floor.

If Andriy Shevchenko's summer arrival disrupted Chelsea, Abramovich's apparent refusal to fund a January swoop for a central defender ultimately proved costly.

Chelsea's defensive resources were stretched to the snapping point at Anfield - where they went into a Champions League semi-final with no replacement for Ricardo Carvalho.

WORKING FOR THE YANKEE DOLLAR

Ferguson appears to enjoy a good relationship with the Glazers, although the old campaigner has played a canny game.

His demands have not been excessive and, consequently, whatever he has wanted he has received.

Since their arrivals, the Glazers have sanctioned the acquisition of Patrice Evra (£5.5m), Ji-Sung Park (£4m), Nemanja Vidic (£7m) and Michael Carrick (£18.6m) - and two or three big buys are expected this summer.

United have also done good business on the transfer market, recouping up to £30m by selling the likes of Ruud van Nistelrooy, John Obi Mikel, Tim Howard and a host of fringe players.

But when he has needed resources, Ferguson's paymasters have made them available and the Americans have proved they are not afraid to spend.

'LIFE HAS IMPROVED, COMRADES. LIFE IS JOYOUS'

Malcolm Glazer and Roman Abramovich
Glazer and Abramovich, the owners of Man Utd and Chelsea
Few believed Stalin when he told them that and Chelsea fans, who had expected the Premiership title to become their property, will not be celebrating as it heads north.

Life certainly looked good in the summer when Chelsea signed Michael Ballack from Bayern Munich, and striker Shevchenko from AC Milan. The pieces looked in place to not only impose an iron rule on English football but to dominate Europe as well.

But, like Soviet rule, little cracks began to appear at Stamford Bridge as the season wore on.

And the blue wall that had descended on Chelsea in the past seasons was ultimately torn down.

THE LAND OF THE FREE

You could argue that it took Chelsea's iron grip on English football to make Manchester United popular among the masses, although for some neutrals it was like choosing between two 'evil empires'.

Chelsea's ruthless efficiency in assembling back-to-back Premiership titles was a joyless experience for many.

In contrast, Manchester United have played with an attacking abandon and freedom that has led to them winning the ideological battle for hearts and minds.

So, for now, English football's Cold War is over.

But do not bet against it flaring up again.



SEE ALSO
Glazers aided title push - Gill
07 May 07 |  Man Utd
Title triumph spurs on Ferguson
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Man Utd secure Premiership title
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Arsenal 1-1 Chelsea
06 May 07 |  Premiership
How the title was won
06 May 07 |  Premiership
How Man Utd ousted Chelsea
06 May 07 |  Premiership
Alan Hansen's column
06 May 07 |  Premiership
Man Utd's season in photos
06 May 07 |  Football
Man City 0-1 Man Utd
05 May 07 |  Premiership
Ferguson will avoid Chelsea game
05 May 07 |  Premiership
Reds chief mocks beaten Chelsea
02 May 07 |  Liverpool
Ranieri doubts Mourinho's future
02 May 07 |  Chelsea
Chelsea deny Shevchenko reports
07 Dec 06 |  Chelsea
Abramovich lured me - Shevchenko
29 Jul 06 |  Chelsea


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