Divided over United

Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani, chairman of the Qatar Islamic Bank (QIB), and British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe officially declared their interest in buying Manchester United on Friday night, ending weeks of speculation.

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Manchester, England, UK - March 22, 2019 - Front view of Old Trafford with The United Trinity, a statue of Manchester United's "holy trinity" of Best, Law and Charlton

Qatari Sheikh Jassim reportedly tabled an offer to buy Manchester United before the 10pm soft deadline set by the overseeing merchant bankers acting on the Glazer family’s behalf. New York based Raine Group also helped sell Chelsea in 2022 and are accustomed to offers coming in past the cut-off point.

INEOS chemicals group owner, Ratcliffe, confirmed a bid had been tabled on Friday night after their interest was directly communicated to the Glazers, promising to “put the Manchester back into Manchester United”.

Ratcliffe’s INEOS Group statement read “We would see our role as the long-term custodians of Manchester United on behalf of the fans and the wider community. We are ambitious and highly competitive and would want to invest in Manchester United to make them the number one club in the world once again”.

Sheikh Jassim’s team promised to make the club debt-free, but exactly how much they offered is yet to be confirmed. The Glazers valued the club at £5 billion. In a statement confirming he placed an offer for “100 per cent” of the club, Sheikh Jassim said “The bid plans to return the club to its former glories both on and off the pitch”.

The soft deadline for offers is afforded to United thanks to the club’s New York Stock Exchange listing, ensuring owners consider the best offer, regardless of when it is tabled. It marks the beginning of the process, after which full access to United’s finance will be provided in a data room, in view of which a final price is offered.

Other bids have reportedly been made to buy a majority stake in United, although those bidders are yet to be identified. Recent interest in UK football clubs by private equity consortiums from the US as well as American individuals and celebrities, suggests that is where more offers could originate from.

In recent months and weeks, media reported on speculation Qatar would be buying Liverpool or Manchester United, in part or fully, Sheikh Jassim’s official offer on Friday finally quashed the incessant rumours surrounding Qatari interest in several UK clubs, at one stage responsible for sending Manchester United’s share price soaring.

The possibility that the fourth wealthiest country in the world might take over from the Glazers’ disastrous run as debt-stricken Manchester United owners, pleased the markets and some fans and players alike, having not won a Champions League in a decade.

Given that the House of Thani is the ruling family of Qatar, and ultimately owns PSG, questions remain regarding whether UEFA might block the Qatari bid.

Whichever billionaire bidder wins, sceptical and divided United fans can be reassured that besides providing a much-needed injection of capital, the top two contenders are both lifelong fans of the club that they are bidding to save.

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