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F.C. United of Manchester is an English semi-professional football club based in Bury, Greater Manchester that plays in the Northern Premier League Premier Division. It was formed in 2005 by Manchester United supporters opposed to American businessman Malcolm Glazer's controversial takeover of the club. The supporters own the club and vote on how the club is run.

The club entered the North West Counties Football League Division Two in 2005, winning the league in their inaugural season. In their second season, they were crowned champions of North West Counties Football League Division One and were promoted to the Northern Premier League. The 2007–08 season saw them finish second in the Northern Premier League Division One North and gain promotion through the end of season play-offs. Since then they have played in the Northern Premier League Premier Division, reaching the play-off final in 2010–11. The club also reached the Second Round Proper of the FA Cup in the 2010–11 season. F.C. United has played at Gigg Lane since its formation in a ground-share with Bury. However, the club has applied for planning permission to build its own ground in north Manchester in time for the 2012–13 season. The team is managed by former professional football player Karl Marginson.

The club was founded in 2005 by supporters of Manchester United. Although they had various reasons for their dissatisfaction, the prime catalyst for F.C. United's formation was the 12 May 2005 hostile takeover of Manchester United by the American businessman Malcolm Glazer. After the name "F.C. United" was rejected by the Football Association for being too generic, all those who had pledged money to the club were asked to vote on a name. On 14 June 2005, it was announced that "F.C. United of Manchester" had been chosen, beating "A.F.C. Manchester 1878", "Manchester Central" and "Newton Heath United". "F.C. United" continues to be used as an abbreviated form of the club's name. Karl Marginson was appointed as the club's manager on 22 June 2005, and the club held trials for players on 26 June 2005. Just under 900 players applied to take part in the trials, of whom 200 were selected to do so and 17 were chosen to play for F.C. United. By 6 July 2005, over 4,000 people had pledged money to F.C. United and the club had over £100,000 in the bank.

During their formation, the owners of Leigh Railway Mechanics Institute F.C. asked F.C. United to take over their club, however United refused the takeover offer as they believed that taking over an existing club would be hypocritical, given that F.C. United was formed as a result of Manchester United's takeover.

Kit and logo

F.C. United's club colours are red, white and black—the same colours worn by Manchester United. However, the shirt bears no sponsorship logo, as it was written into the club's constitution that the club should not have a shirt sponsor. Despite this, the club is sponsored as a whole by mxData, a mobile application developer. The club's first kit was a plain red shirt, white shorts and plain black socks. The club introduced a new home shirt for the 2007–08 season with a striped collar and striped ends on the sleeves which lasted until 2009. This was changed for the 2009–11 seasons to a red shirt with a black and white stripe down the left side, manufactured by Admiral Sportswear. However, for seasons 2011–13 the club has reverted back to a plain red shirt, manufactured by O'Neills. The club's second kit, worn when playing away against a team with a predominantly red kit, is all white with a red trim, black shorts and white socks. The club also has an alternative plain blue kit for playing against a team with a red and white kit. In past seasons a white shirt with a diagonal black stripe has been used as the second kit.

The club's badge is red, white, black and yellow, and incorporates elements from the Manchester coat of arms: a ship representing Manchester's industry, and three stripes representing the three rivers that flow through Manchester.

Stadium

Since the club's formation, F.C. United have not had their own home ground. Instead, they ground-share Gigg Lane with Bury F.C.

On 25 March 2010, the club announced plans to build their own 5,000-capacity football ground in Newton Heath, the original home of Manchester United. The development was planned to be located on the site of the current Ten Acres Lane sports centre and would have cost £3.5 million, to be financed by public donations, a Community Shares issue and grant funding. However, it was announced on 4 March 2011 that Manchester City Council had backed out from funding the stadium, but that they had pledged to help F.C. United build a stadium in a new location with reduced costs. On 5 April 2011 it was revealed that F.C. United were considering a new site in the Broadhurst Park area of Moston, Manchester. Detailed information about the new facility, including the tentative name Moston Community Stadium, was released on 9 June 2011.

Supporters

As F.C. United is owned by its supporters, each member can vote on how the club is run, including: voting for board members; designs; and season ticket prices. Most F.C. United supporters still support Manchester United and many were previously season ticket holders at Old Trafford. F.C. United fans are known for the large range of songs that they sing at matches, and the atmosphere created by fans has been praised in the media. However, supporters have been known to set off flares during big games. During their first season (2005–06), F.C. United had the second-highest average attendance in English non-League football with an average gate of 3,059, and were the 87th best supported club across all divisions. Attendances fell in the next two seasons and they were the 92nd best supported club in 2006–07 and 100th best supported club by 2007–08. Their average league attendance has since levelled out at approximately 2,000 per game.

Organisation

F.C. United is an Industrial and provident society. Membership is obtained by paying an annual fee of £12 to the club (£3 for children), but each member receives only one share in the club and is entitled to a single vote at meetings, regardless of the amount donated. The board consists eleven members who are elected by the members of the club. The club has two full-time employee positions: Andy Walsh as chief executive and Lindsey Robertson as club secretary. Andy Walsh was heavily involved in the club's formation.

The club's manifesto includes the following core principles:

-The Board will be democratically elected by its members

-Decisions taken by the membership will be decided on a one member, one vote basis

-The club will develop strong links with the local community and strive to be accessible to all, discriminating against none

-The club will endeavour to make admission prices as affordable as possible, to as wide a constituency as possible

-The club will encourage young, local participation—playing and supporting—whenever possible

-The Board will strive wherever possible to avoid outright commercialism

-The club will remain a non-profit organisation

Future aspirations

-Partway into their second season at their Annual General Meeting in November 2006, the club outlined aspirations for the next six years:

-Winning promotion in three successive seasons to take them to Conference North by 2009

-Reaching an average of 5,000 supporters per home game by 2009

-Building their own 7,000–10,000 capacity stadium, as close to the centre of Greater Manchester as possible, by 2012

-Developing their own training facilities by 2009

-Starting a women's team for the 2007–08 season

Their aspirations have had mixed results. The club did achieve two successive promotions after the AGM, but have remained in the Northern Premier League Premier Division since 2008 missing out on their Conference North target. Rather than fulfilling the aim of 5,000 supporters per home game, crowds have declined in all but one of their seasons so far. Progress was being made on plans to develop their own stadium, until funding was cut in early 2011. After this setback, the club is pressing ahead with plans to build a stadium in the Moston area of north Manchester in time for the 2012–13 season. They have teamed up with The Manchester College for use of their training facilities and to operate a women's team since 2009.

Criticism

F.C. United and its founders have been both criticised and supported by fans of Manchester United and the media, with some fans viewing those who chose to leave to follow F.C. United as "traitors". Notably, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has questioned the loyalty of fans who decided to form the club and the motivation behind the forming of F.C. United in a 2006 book:

I'm sorry about that. It is a bit sad that part, but I wonder just how big a United supporter they are. They seem to me to be promoting or projecting themselves a wee bit rather than saying, "at the end of the day the club have made a decision, we'll stick by them. It's more about them than us. —Sir Alex Ferguson, The Official Manchester United Diary of the Season (2006)

Honours

F.C. United have won two league titles and two league cups in their short history.

Northern Premier League Premier Division:

Playoff runners-up 2010–11

Northern Premier League Division One North:

Runners-up 2007–08

Playoff winners 2007–08

F.C. United were crowned champions of the North West Counties Football League Division Two in their inaugural season (2005–06).

Northern Premier League President's Cup:

Winners 2007–08

North West Counties League Division One:

Champions 2006–07

North West Counties League Challenge Cup:

Winners 2006–07

North West Counties League Division Two:

Champions 2005–06

Supporters Direct Cup:

Winners 2006

Runners-up 2005, 2009, 2010, 2011

Jimmy Davis Memorial Cup:

Winners 2007

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