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Rumblings rife over United ownership

Updated: Oct 3, 2022

Speculation continues to mount over Manchester United's owners.

A disastrous start to the newest era at Man United has seen fan-owner relations reach an all-time low and upheaval at an all-time high. Anger and frustrations are rife among United supporters who are desperate for the Glazer family to sell their shares in the club.

United are winless, point-less and bottom of the Premier League table after their first two games of the season and the Red Devils next host Liverpool at Old Trafford on Monday evening. A mass walkout has been planned by supporters online but it remains to be seen the success of the latest protests against the club's toxic ownership model.

Amidst escalating pressure on the absent landlord Glazers to abdicate, British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe is said to be open to acquiring shares in United. Born in Oldham in 1952, Ratcliffe is a lifelong United fan and he has the financial backing to lead a takeover bid of the club.

Ratcliffe’s spokesperson told The Times: “If the club is for sale, Jim is definitely a potential buyer … If something like this was possible, we would be interested in talking with a view to long-term ownership.”

Matt Dickinson of The Times reported on Wednesday evening, ‘Ratcliffe tends to seek full control of the businesses he buys, and has the means to do so, but would be willing to discuss a minority holding with the Glazers if it was part of a plan to take control at a later date’.

In 2020 the Bloomberg Billionaires Index listed Ratcliffe as the second-wealthiest Briton with a net worth of $25billion USD. Sir Jim founded global chemical company INEOS in 1998 and present day he remains CEO and chairman of the board. He is also the owner of Swiss football club Lausanne-Sport and French side OGC Nice. In 2020, Ineos Group Ltd became the principal partner of Formula One racing team Mercedes-AMG.

Bloomberg reported the Glazer family are considering selling a minority stake in United. Although it may not transpire immediately, Ratcliffe would ultimately seek to replace brothers Joel and Avram Glazer who are co-chairmen of United.

The Glazers’ late father, Malcolm, held a 15% stake in United by the end of 2003 and the American tycoon went on to acquire a majority share and then a controlling stake less than two years later. In May 2005 the £790million takeover was finalised, of which £540million was borrowed to complete the purchase the club.

The debt taken on by the Glazers to finance the takeover was split between the club and the family, and accounts from May this year show that Man United’s net debt stands north of £495million. Media reports suggest if the Glazers were to sell the club they would look to recoup between £5-7billion.

Fans, pundits and ex-players alike have vented their dissatisfaction with the operations at United, specifically at the owners not investing their own capital into the club over the years and how it is seen more as a business than a sporting institution. The Glazers faced a major backlash in April 2021 after they were at the forefront of the ill-fated European Super League, an intended breakaway competition.

Major renovations are needed at Old Trafford as well as the club’s Carrington training complex, not to mention a substantial injection of cash into an ailing first-team squad.

With exactly two weeks remaining of the summer transfer market, United have spent just £60million and the senior squad is inferior in quality than at the end of last season. Many a time have United been found scrambling in the closing stages of a transfer window and they appear to be heading in that direction once again, with the team in desperate need of reinforcements in midfield.

United are falling behind their fellow 'top six' rivals, both on and off the pitch, and it all comes down to how poorly the club is run at the very top.

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