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Man Utd sale: What would a Sir Jim Ratcliffe takeover mean for Red Devils

A prolonged takeover process leaves little certain as Manchester United appears on the brink of sale.

The Glazer Family put the club up for purchase in November, with the long-time owners of the Old Trafford club suggesting that they would be open to both minority and majority investement.

Nearly 200 days on, the group of interested parties has been narrowed down to two favourites, with INEOS owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe and Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al-Thani both making public that they had tabled offers to take over.

British billionaire Ratcliffe is something of a known quantity – the 70-year-old is already prominently involved in sport, owning Ligue 1 club Nice and having invested in Formula 1 and cycling.

Formerly the richest man in the United Kingdom, Ratcliffe was unsuccessful in a bid for Chelsea during the London club’s sale last year, but could now complete a takeover of the Premier League club which he has supported since childhood.

So what would a Sir Jim Ratcliffe takeover mean for Manchester United?

Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s potential investment is slightly complex, with multiple options reported to be on the table. While Sheikh Jassim would be expected to purchase 100% of the club’s shares, Ratcliffe is thought to favour only securing the Glazer’s controlling stake, leaving the remaining 31% on the New York Stock Exchange. The Independent has also reported that the Glazers may not wish to totally withdraw from the club, and Ratcliffe is said to have proposed a deal that would allow Joel and Avram Glazer to stay on as minority owners, though the British billionaire would insist on total control.

While Ratcliffe’s pockets may not extend as deep as those possessed by any Qatari consortium, the Nice owner would still surely provide a significant injection of funds to a club already something of a market heavyweight. Again, at least a couple of high price, big name signings would be likely. Of concern, perhaps, is how Ratcliffe might deal with Manchester United’s debt, which has swelled to close to £1 billion during the Glazer’s ownership of the club. Sheikh Jassim has emphasised his offer would be “debt free”.

One player with knowledge of how Ratcliffe operates as an owner is Kasper Schmeichel. The goalkeeper joined Nice from Leicester last summer and recently suggested a Ratcliffe-led takeover would be good for Manchester United.

“One of the biggest reasons I joined Nice was because of INEOS and Sir Jim Ratcliffe and Sir Dave Brailsford and their vision of how they want to evolve their sports,” Schmeichel explained on Sky Sports. “They have been successful in business and every other sporting venture they have thrown their investment at.

“Jim is a big Manchester United fan and I think that speaks to a lot of fans that he is someone who cares about the club. From my own experience at Nice, he is a man who is present, comes to games, is knowledgeable about football and has a vast knowledge about performance in general.

“He has great people like Dave Brailsford who work for him. The owners are present, there isn’t the divide between the people who own the club and those who are there on a daily basis. I am biased in terms of hoping INEOS are the preferred bidders.”

Where are we in the takeover process?

Takeover processes can be complex, particularly when involving an entity like Manchester United. As perhaps the world’s biggest football club, there is immense financial and cultural value attached. As such, a protracted saga overseen by The Raine Group always felt likely – even if it has frustrated Manchester United supporters. The Glazer Family are believed to still be considering either a full sale or a minority investment, which would allow them to redevelop Old Trafford.

More likely, it is believed, is a majority takeover, though, with Ratcliffe and Sheikh Jassim the stated bidders. The Glazers are reported to value to club at around £6 billion, citing the recent sales of Chelsea for £2.5 billion and the NFL’s Denver Broncos for £3.75 billion. The Independent reported last month that Ratcliffe valued the club higher than the Qatari banker in what was supposed to be the final round of bidding – but still we await further news of progress on a sale.

Who are the bidders?

Not too much is known about Sheikh Jassim, who is chair of the Qatar Islamic Bank and has significant links to the Qatari government. While it has been stressed that Jassim has launched his bid as a venture separate from any other Qatari involvement in football, the country’s poor human rights record has resulted in understandable opposition to any potential takeover, with accusations of seeking to use football as a form of “sportswashing”.

If he is named as the preferred bidder, Sheikh Jassim may have to prove he is separate from the Qatar Sports Investment (QSI) group that owns Paris Saint-Germain – Uefa rules insist that owners cannot have two clubs in the same competition, though the European footballing body has hinted that stance could be softened as multi-club portfolios become more prevalent.

That could prove a barrier to overcome for Ratcliffe, too. The British billionaire already owns French side Nice as part of his wider investment in sport. The 70-year-old – chair and CEO of chemical giants INEOS – has been a Manchester United fan since his youth.

Certainly online, Manchester United fans generally seem to prefer Sheikh Jassim of their two potential new owners, with many appearing to believe that receiving their own investment from gulf wealth may be the only way to compete long-term with crosstown rivals Manchester City.

What would a Sheikh Jassim takeover mean for Manchester United?

The appeals of accepting the Qatari offer would appear obvious. Sheikh Jassim and the consortium behind him are thought to be exceptionally wealthy, and have suggested they will invest heavily both in new players and in the infrastructure at Old Trafford, which is in desperate need of improvement. Having seen the impact that the Abu Dhabi United Group had after taking over at Manchester City, it is understandable that Manchester United fans would like to see similar on-field investment to hopefully build their club into an outfit capable of matching Pep Guardiola’s side.

While there would be financial fair play concerns to navigate, a number of top players have been floated as potential targets if Sheikh Jassim’s takeover goes through, including PSG’s Kylian Mbappe. Such links are speculative at this stage but it is likely that either new owner would seek to make early statements in the transfer markets if a deal goes through before this summer’s window.

What does this mean for Erik ten Hag?

All of this leaves Erik ten Hag a little in the dark. The Manchester United manager has enjoyed a positive first season, securing the Carabao Cup and leaving his side well placed for Champions League qualification, but it is clear that work is needed to transform his team into title contenders.

Ten Hag admitted recently that he was not sure what funds would be available to him this summer. “I don’t have influence on that,” the Dutchman said. “Also I don’t know.

“The only thing what I know is that Man United is one of the biggest clubs and I think it’s among maybe (the) two biggest clubs in the world from a fanbase perspective. So, I think this club has to compete for the highest in the world, so Champions League, Premier League. But in football you need funds to construct squads because in the end of the day the level from your players makes if you are successful or not.”

Certainly, the manager would appreciate greater clarity over what the future holds. With no major men’s football tournament this summer, it could be that transfer negotiations are started and concluded earlier in the window, leaving time short for a takeover to be concluded and allow Ten Hag to start laying out how he wishes to build his squad.

“I, we see this as a project,” Ten Hag continued. “In a project also it belongs that you are in windows, that you strengthen your squad needs or to make refreshments, so that you get more balance, definitely, and you bring young players in.

“But I think we already have shown and proved that we can beat the best teams in the world, so, yeah, I think we can compete in the Champions League.

“But at the end of the day we want to be in the winter also in the Champions League and we want to compete, and knock them all out, so then we have a way to go.”

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