Full sale only? The only appears possible by leaving Manchester United to fall under state ownership. Allowing the Glazers to squat in Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s house is a sacrifice worth making…
Third and final offers have gone in for Manchester United. Now what?
The Friday night deadline set by the Glazers as they attempt to squeeze Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani and Sir Jim Ratcliffe one last time was met by both bidders. The current owners, enabled by Raine Group, have pushed as hard as anyone might reasonably allow. So now we wait.
One of three outcomes is most likely. The one favoured by many United fans, certainly the shoutiest on social media, is for a full sale to Sheikh Jassim and whoever is pulling his strings. They want it to be known they they have submitted a proposal for the club in its entirety, one worth around £5billion that would set a new world record for the purchase of a sports club, beating the sale of the Denver Broncos for £3.8billion, but still short of the £6billion that the Glazers would accept to f*** off.
Ratcliffe appears to be offering a place for the Glazers, a couple of them at least, in his vision for United. The Manchester-born billionaire wants control – that’s important – but some things are beyond even billionaires. Ratcliffe would struggle to meet the Glazers’ demands for them to promise never to darken United’s door again.
Then there is the third, almost unthinkable option: nothing changes. The Glazers stay in charge, they continue to leech off the club and wait while their asset appreciates, despite the abject lack of investment on the owners’ part. They could yet accept offers of help with that, if they choose implement ‘the nightmare scenario’ by selling only minority stakes to investment groups.
Almost six months into the process, the only thing that is clear is that there are no perfect options – at least to anyone but the wilfully blind. Everyone with United at heart must decide what they are willing to compromise.
Morality? That, sadly, would be the price to pay if those cheerleading for Sheikh Jassim get their way. Make no mistake, a victory for the Sheikh would be a victory for Qatar. The Red Devils would become the third stealth state-owned club in the Premier League – a prospect that must not be allowed to become a reality.
The Premier League were blissfully ignorant of the ramifications of Abu Dhabi’s takeover of Manchester City, and perhaps wilfully so when the Saudis came for Newcastle. However often Sheikh Jassim is thrust forward as the face, Qatar wants control of United. One of Europe’s grandest football clubs would become the continent’s most souped-up sportswashing vehicle.
That is the consequence of a full sale. ‘Bring it on!’, say some supporters. The prospect of the likes of Jude Bellingham and Kylian Mbappe wearing red in a 90,000 beIN Bowl built where cars currently park next to Old Trafford would be enough to distract others. The rest, for whom their conscience is on the table next to ownership of their club, might have to learn to learn to live with the Glazers a little while longer.
Even if their siblings are content to cut and run, Joel and Avram are apparently prepared to play the long game. Six billion would be nice now, but what if it is true that United could be worth closer to 10 billion in a few years? They want a piece of that much tastier pie, and if it is that or Qatari control, the rest of us should be willing to stomach it.
Working with the Glazers hardly represents an ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ approach from Ratcliffe. It would still be his name, or INEOS’s, above the door. Ratcliffe would call the shots; Joel And Avram would be barely there for the ride while leaving the new owner to address all the issues they’ve ignored for the best part of two decades.
Details are still sketchy, of course, and we only know what the stakeholders involved want to be known. The Qatari bid is clear in terms of intent, but their motives are far, far more suspicious – too sketchy to stomach. Ratcliffe, like any billionaire, is hardly a cuddly benefactor, but he doesn’t have to be.
United, run properly, almost takes care of itself and certainly pays its own way. The club needs no state funding and the game must resist another surrender to an oppressive regime. Facilitating a couple of Glazers to tap into their voyeuristic instincts is a sacrifice far more palatable than United falling into Qatari hands.