Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Malcolm Glazer ousted three Manchester United board members yesterday in a move that could signal plans for a hostile takeover of the famed soccer team.

Glazer owns 28.1 percent of the team, which is valued at about $1.36 billion and ranked by many as the world's richest sports franchise.

"Manchester United supporters will take this as a declaration of war," said Sean Bones, vice chairman of the fan-based group Shareholders United.

Man United last month broke off talks with Glazer about a possible takeover, calling his proposal "unattractive" because it relied too heavily on borrowed money. But the club has said it expected him to make another offer.

Irish racehorse owners John Magnier and J.P. McManus, who own 29 percent of the club, abstained from voting as has been their custom in recent years. Glazer voted through a representative.

If Glazer's ownership share reaches 30 percent, British law requires him to make an offer to buy out remaining stockholders. Shareholders United urged fans to buy Man United shares, with a goal of boosting individual fan ownership to 25 percent. Such a move would make it difficult for Glazer to assume control.

Opposition to a possible American takeover has been fierce. Fans oppose Glazer because he's a foreigner and they fear he will raise ticket prices and sell Old Trafford to increase club profits.

The ouster of board members Maurice Watkins, Andy Anson and Philip Yea came as blow to chief executive David Gill, who had recommended the three for reelection.

-- From News Services