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Manchester United fans seek clarity as Jim Ratcliffe eyes minority stake

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A leading Manchester United fans’ group called on Sunday for clarity on the future of the English giants amid speculation British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe is set to take a minority stake in the club.

United’s owners, the American Glazer family, announced nearly a year ago that they were exploring “strategic alternatives to enhance the club’s growth”, with a full sale one of the options.

Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani withdrew his attempt to buy the 20-time English champions, a source close to the bid told AFP on Saturday.

Ratcliffe was the other frontrunner during several rounds of bidding, but no offer has yet met the £6 billion ($7.2 billion) valuation put on the club by the Glazers.

Founder of petrochemicals giant Ineos, Ratcliffe will now settle for a 25 percent stake for around £1.3 billion the BBC said on Sunday.

Ineos will reportedly seek to take control of the sporting side of United’s business in return for its investment.

The Glazers have been unpopular with supporters ever since a leveraged takeover in 2005 for £790 million saddled the club with huge debts.

“It would be wildly optimistic to think the Glazers are acting in the interests of supporters or are making ownership decisions which don’t centre on their own priorities,” the Manchester United Supporters Trust said in a statement.

“However, what supporters should expect at the very least now is some clarity and an end to this process.

“Furthermore the outcome must include new investment into the club. It cannot be solely about the interests of shareholders, whether existing or new.

“We call upon all parties to put Manchester United interests before their own interests.”

Neville raises concerns

Former United captain Gary Neville raised his concern over how much impact a minority investment can have in turning round the club’s fortunes on and off the field.

“My preference is and always will be now for a Glazer family full exit. They have overstayed their welcome in Manchester yet seem oblivious to this fact,” Neville posted on social media.

“How does a minority shareholder stop cultural decline across a whole organisation if the people who have overseen this decline still have a majority shareholding?”

The dominant force of English football when the Glazers took control 18 years ago, United’s fortunes have faded under their reign.

The Red Devils have not won the Premier League since former manager Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 and last won the Champions League in 2008.

They currently sit 10th in the Premier League and have lost their first two Champions League group stage matches for the first time in the club’s history.

Despite their commercial appeal, United have also been overtaken by their rivals off the field.

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The club’s debt has spiralled to £970 million, according to figures released in March, despite a lack of investment in their stadium and training ground.

Old Trafford was overlooked in favour of Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium for the UK and Ireland’s successful bid to host Euro 2028.

“Old Trafford requires significant investment on its surrounding land,” added Neville.

“Does this deal impact this requirement positively or does it leave it as a concrete wasteland?”

AFP

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