Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s company INEOS has officially entered the bidding to buy Manchester United.
Sky Sports News has confirmed a story first published by The Times that Ratcliffe, one of Britain’s richest men, wants to complete the purchase of the Premier League giants.
The Glazer family, United’s current owners, announced in November they are willing to listen to offers for the club after a 17-year reign dominated by fan protests and declining on-pitch performance.
INEOS, Ratcliffe’s chemical firm, announced it had formally lodged interest with the Glazers.
“We have formally put ourselves into the process,” a spokesperson said.
Ratcliffe has made no secret of the fact he would be interested in buying United. He supported them as a boy and is understood to remain a fan.
The 70-year-old billionaire was among bidders for Chelsea when their ownership came up for grabs after the start of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
His offer, of £4.25bn, was rejected under the sale process ordered by the Government when Roman Abramovich was sanctioned for his links to Vladimir Putin’s regime in Moscow.
Ratcliffe is no stranger to big sporting investments. He also owns cycling team INEOS Grenadiers, Ligue 1 side Nice, who he took over in 2019, and FC Lausanne-Sport, a Swiss Super League club.
As well as Ratcliffe, Saudia Arabia sports minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal has previously confirmed his country’s intentions of taking over United – valued at around £5bn. Technology giant Apple has been another reported interested party.
United are live on Sky Sports Premier League and Main Event this Wednesday when they travel to Crystal Palace. Coverage begins at 7.30pm with kick-off at 8pm.
Could Man Utd be sold before end of season?
Sky Sports News chief reporter Kaveh Solhekol:
“Sir Jim Ratcliffe has always made it clear he wants to buy a Premier League club. A few years ago he said Premier League clubs were overvalued, which is why he went and bought Nice for €100m. He said he wasn’t going to spend billions of pounds on a Premier League club, but his attitude has changed over the past few years.
“His company has a lot of interest in different sports, he’s somebody who grew up as a Manchester United supporter even though he regularly goes to watch Chelsea. Last year, he tried to buy Chelsea when they were put up for sale. He made a very, very late bid of about £4.25bn which matched the winning bid.
“This time, as far as Manchester United are concerned, he’s the first person to show his hand. I think what we’ll see now is more people showing their hands and more people getting to look at the books. Then next month, we’ll start hearing about different bids that are being made.
“I think we can anticipate Manchester United changing hands before the end of the season if the club is sold 100 per cent.”
How is INEOS’ ownership at Nice viewed?
ESPN’S Julien Laurens on The Transfer Show:
“INEOS bought Nice in August 2019 for €100m. The intentions have been very good, to be fair.
“You can see he wants to do well. The investment has been good. On the Ligue 1 and Nice scale, they have spent €200m in those three-and-a-half years they have been at the club.
“Before Man Utd fans say that is what we need to spend in one summer, not three years, Nice do not have the revenue Man Utd have. Ligue 1 doesn’t bring in the same money the Premier League brings in. You have to remember the scale.
“They have invested a lot of money in youth players and, to a certain extent, that has worked. However, in terms of results on the pitch it has been a bit underwhelming.
“They finished sixth in the first season under Patrick Vieira, ninth and then fifth under Christophe Galtier, who left to go to PSG. Then this season currently is a bad one because this is the thing, Sir Jim Ratcliffe has made some wrong choices. Lucien Favre was brought in as manager and he was the wrong one.
“He is clearly still learning but you can’t deny Ratcliffe loves football, and I think he wants to do well in every club he owns.”
How are INEOS viewed by the Nice fans?
More from ESPN’S Julien Laurens on The Transfer Show:
“The relationship with the Nice fans has been a bit up and down.
“The Nice fans, especially the Ultras are hard to please.
“It will be the same with the United fans if Ratcliffe takes over, the expectation when he took over at Nice was huge.
“Suddenly they thought they could compete with PSG and the Qatari money. They thought they’d be able to compete with Marseille, their rivals, but it hasn’t happened.
So, at times it was good, and they reached a cup final, for example last summer, which they lost, but still, there was a lot of people asking: ‘Is that it?’ The expectations were higher than what Ratcliffe bought.
The fans were on board, then they doubted, then they were back on board, but they haven’t always understood the project and the direction. Dave Brailsford then came in and he’s not really a football man, which the fans didn’t understand.
“It’s been a mixed relationship between Ratcliffe, his team and the Nice fans.”
How will the news of INEOS’ interest in Man Utd be met in Nice?
ESPN’S Julien Laurens on The Transfer Show:
“We should explain the rule again. You can own two clubs. There is no problem with that and Ratcliffe already owns two clubs. He owns Lausanne in Switzerland alongside Nice.
“However, they cannot play in the same European competition. Champions League and Europa League is fine, but you can’t have the two clubs, or three, in the Champions League together.
“At the moment, Nice are not a Champions League club. They are nowhere near finishing in the top three in Ligue 1, even the top four if France gets an extra place in the new Champions League format.
“So, for now there can’t be a conflict there. Manchester United aim for the Champions League, but Nice right now, the Europa League is great already.
“However, clearly if he buys United, if you are a Nice fan you’d think the investment coming to the club won’t bring them to the Champions League because then there would be a big issue and he would have to sell one of the two clubs.
“It looks like, if he gets United, he either sells Nice, which is a possibility and I think he’d make a profit on it. Or he keeps Nice, but not with the aim to take them to the Champions League.”
Neville: Manifesto key for new Man Utd owners
Speaking after the Glazers announced they were open to selling United, Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville said any potential new owners must communicate their plans to supporters.
“I think what Manchester United fans need to see is a manifesto from the new owners,” Neville said in an interview with Sky Sports News senior reporter Melissa Reddy.
“Manchester United can’t be handing over to an owner that basically screams against what the club stands for or what the club wants. So there are manifesto pledges that I think are really important – like the fan voice, the fan experience, and maybe even positions for fans on the board.
“But the sporting project needs to improve. What is it going to be? Are the new owners not going to take dividends? Are they going to make sure it’s a debt-free football club and that they’re re-investing? Maybe there’s a new stadium that needs to be built or a new training ground.
“These are pledges I can think of off the top of my head that are really important for anybody bidding for Manchester United. It’s a manifesto that needs to be put forward so that the fans can understand.
“There are going to be many bids in the many billions and I think if the Glazers want to exit in the right way, it would be to sell it to a party that isn’t only the highest bidder, but if they can get parties near the end to get to a figure they like, then it would be very nice for them to put something forward to the season-ticket holders.
“Because the reality of it is, if the Glazers want to do this right, they have to make sure the club is going to a party whereby the fans don’t believe they’re being lumped with another owner they don’t like.”
A timeline of the Glazers’ Man Utd reign
With the Glazers’ ownership of Manchester United potentially coming to an end, here’s a look at the timeline of their controversial reign…
March 2003 – The Glazers, fronted by Malcolm, buy a 2.9 per cent stake in Manchester United after a £9m investment, which increased later in the year.
May 2005 – After steadily increasing their stake in the club, the Glazers make a formal takeover bid which is accepted.
June 2005 – Now owning 98 per cent of shares, the Glazers formally own United, loading £525m of debt onto the club.
May 2006 – The first signs of unrest among the fans are seen, with ‘Love United Hate Glazer’ banners appearing at Old Trafford.
May 2010 – After the Glazers operated the club with huge debt, hundreds of United fans – wearing yellow and green – protest at the ownership before the final game of the 2009/10 season.
August 2012 – Manchester United are listed on the New York Stock Exchange, with the Glazer family making profit from selling a portion of their shares.
May 2014 – Malcolm Glazer dies, but the operating of the club is not affected.
April 2021 – Joel Glazer is revealed as one of the main players behind the plans for the ill-fated Super League, which caused huge outrage among fans, politicians and even the Royal family. Fans break into the club’s training ground later that month to protest.
May 2021 – Up to 10,000 United fans break into Old Trafford amid a vociferous protest against the owners which led to the Premier League game with Liverpool being called off. Criminal damage occurred and six police officers were injured.
August 18, 2022 – British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe reveals he would be interested in buying Manchester United if the Premier League club was for sale.
August 22, 2022 – A more peaceful protest took place ahead of United’s fixture with Liverpool, with thousands of fans marching from the city centre to the stadium ahead of a 2-1 win.
November 22, 2022 – The Glazer family announce they are “exploring strategic alternatives” including a sale of the club.
January 17, 2023 – Ratcliffe’s firm INEOS officially enters the bidding to buy Manchester United.