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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

English Soccer's Tale of Two Tycoons

ReutersChelsea welcomed Abramovich's billions. But Glazer has won few fans at United.
LONDON -- American entrepreneur Malcolm Glazer has been trying to take over Manchester United for more than a year despite bitter resistance from fans and cold shoulders from the club's board.

In July 2003, Chelsea did not think twice about welcoming Russian oil tycoon Roman Abramovich with open arms when he wanted to buy the Premier League club.

That two of English soccer's biggest clubs could end up in the hands of foreigners says a great deal about the appeal of the Premier League.

The difference in the two men's reception by the fans has everything to do with debt and the clubs' differing experiences of success over the past 20 years.

Manchester United's board confirmed Sunday that it had received a "detailed proposal" from Glazer, the American's third tilt at the 126-year-old club.

Sources said the latest offer from the man who owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers American football team, valued United at ?800 million ($1.5 billion) and would involve significantly less debt than his previous proposals.

That is still unlikely to silence the supporters, who fear a Glazer takeover would directly damage the club's pursuit of the world's best players as transfer funds would be diverted to service loans Glazer took to finance his deal.

They fear seat prices would have to rise, and also fear the long-term intentions of Glazer, a businessman who has no obvious affection for the club. Ultimately the club's fate depends on the willingness of Irish racehorse owners John Magnier and J.P. McManus, who hold 28.9 percent of the shares, to sell.

Abramovich was also unknown to Chelsea fans before his takeover. Now the Russian is seen as a hero at Stamford Bridge, where he has poured hundreds of millions of pounds into signing some of the world's finest talent.

Unlike United fans, who have cheered eight league titles in the past 12 years, Chelsea supporters have not experienced the joy of winning the championship since 1955.

The arrivals of Dutch winger Arjen Robben, French striker Didier Drogba and Ireland winger Damien Duff, to name but a few -- along with Portuguese coach Jose Mourinho -- means the club is now poised to win its first title for 50 years.

The fact the club made record English soccer losses of ?88 million in 2003-04, their first season with Abramovich as owner, hardly registered, as the Russian's funds appear virtually limitless.

Whereas United fans believe Glazer craves United for purely self-interested business reasons, Chelsea's are content for their club to be an expensive hobby for a man who wiped out their debts at a stroke.

Chelsea's chief executive Peter Kenyon, who left Old Trafford to join the Abramovich revolution, says a plan is in place to make the club self-sufficient in five years.

For now, the club is enjoying a free ride to the summit of the world game that is leaving all the others, including United, trailing in its slipstream.