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Sir Jim Ratcliffe completes 25% takeover of Man Utd but big questions remain

British billionaire agrees £1.25bn deal for minority stake in ailing Premier League giants and promises major changes 'in due course'

Sir Jim Ratcliffe has targeted returning Manchester United to the top of world football after paying £1.3bn to assume total control of football operations at Old Trafford

The Glazer family finally agreed to sell 25 per cent of the club to the British billionaire’s Ineos Sport at a virtual board meeting on Sunday morning after 13 months of negotiations and a painstaking few weeks hammering out the final details.

i understands that Ratcliffe’s personal intervention in the last week or so was behind the sudden push to complete the world record deal for a minority investment before Christmas, with urgency injected in the last 48 hours resulting in the Christmas Eve announcement.

Speaking for the first time as the deal was announced, Ratcliffe said: “As a local boy and a lifelong supporter of the club, I am very pleased that we have been able to agree a deal with the Manchester United board that delegates us management responsibility of the football operations of the club.

“Whilst the commercial success of the club has ensured there have always been available funds to win trophies at the highest level, this potential has not been fully unlocked in recent times.

“We will bring the global knowledge, expertise and talent from the wider Ineos Sport group to help drive further improvement at the club, while also providing funds intended to enable future investment into Old Trafford.

“We are here for the long term and recognise that a lot of challenges and hard work lie ahead, which we will approach with rigour, professionalism and passion. We are committed to working with everyone at the club – the board, staff, players and fans – to help drive the club forward.

“Our shared ambition is clear: we all want to see Manchester United back where we belong, at the very top of English, European and world football.”

The announcement also gives clarity on the new shape of the club’s board – and the huge influence Ineos have gained with their stake. Sir Dave Brailsford and Jean-Claude Blanc will join the club’s UK board while Ineos’ John Reece and Rob Nevin will join the PLC board.

Major changes will be made “in due course” with Brailsford due to start meeting people “pretty quickly” as part of a major fact-finding mission while the Premier League’s checks – which will take between six and eight weeks – go on in the background.

What it means for Ten Hag, transfers and Old Trafford

Soccer Football - Premier League - West Ham United v Manchester United - London Stadium, London, Britain - December 23, 2023 Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag before the match Action Images via Reuters/John Sibley NO USE WITH UNAUTHORIZED AUDIO, VIDEO, DATA, FIXTURE LISTS, CLUB/LEAGUE LOGOS OR 'LIVE' SERVICES. ONLINE IN-MATCH USE LIMITED TO 45 IMAGES, NO VIDEO EMULATION. NO USE IN BETTING, GAMES OR SINGLE CLUB/LEAGUE/PLAYER PUBLICATIONS. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Ten Hag’s United have now lost 13 games this season (Photo: Reuters)

i understands there will be no major footballing decisions taken in the short-term, with manager Erik ten Hag safe for now. Ineos sources indicated that they would want to “get their feet under the table” before deciding whether Ten Hag was the right man to move them forward.

“Are there bigger issues that need to be addressed in order for any manager to have success at the club? We can all theorise but until you get in there and are able to see how it works, making hasty decisions would not be smart,” a source told i.

The investment will have to go through the Premier League’s checks and mean that Ratcliffe’s team will not be in situ for the upcoming January transfer window.

Ratcliffe also plans an immediate injection of £237m into infrastructure projects – money that comes from his own pocket and will not load the club up with any fresh debts – although a huge revamp of Old Trafford and the club’s training facilities will cost many millions more.

i understands that the money will partly go towards improving the stadium and also funding plans for a future “world class stadium” fit for Ineos’ ambitions for the club.

“It is not enough to make Old Trafford fit for decades and decades to come but it can do a lot in the short term,” an Ineos source explained.

Confirmation of the deal will provide welcome clarity to a saga that has gone on for 13 interminable months, with Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani emerging as a rival in February with a bid for full control.

But the Qatari consortium was comprehensively out maneouvred by Ineos, who worked with the Glazer family to find a solution to the issues that long hampered any investment in the club.

The minority stake will no doubt fail to satisfy many supporters who desired a full sale and a fresh start but Ratcliffe’s ideas and energy will at least provide a break with the inglorious Glazer era. It is also understood there is no obligation for the Glazers to relinquish their stake over a set amount of time.

The Glazers will make around £650m by selling their stake, with Ratcliffe acquiring an equal split of category A and category B shares, the latter of which have greater voting rights.

Avram and Joel Glazer said: “Sir Jim and Ineos bring a wealth of commercial experience as well as significant financial commitment into the Club. And, through Ineos Sport, Manchester United will have access to seasoned high-performance professionals, experienced in creating and leading elite teams from both inside and outside the game.

“Manchester United has talented people right across the club and our desire is to always improve at every level to help bring our great fans more success in the future.”

Why fans are questioning the deal

Soccer Football - Champions League - Group A - Manchester United v Bayern Munich - Old Trafford, Manchester, Britain - December 12, 2023 Manchester United banner with a protest against the Glazer family owner of the club Action Images via Reuters/Jason Cairnduff
Ratcliffe’s takeover was met with a mixed reaction from United fans (Photo: Reuters)

The Manchester United Supporters Trust said fans will have mixed feelings and called on Ratcliffe and the club to set out how the new arrangement will work in practice.

“We welcome the investment from a boyhood red, Sir Jim Ratcliffe and his Ineos company, but many will wish his ownership stake was greater than the initially rumoured 25 per cent.

“We note the statements that he and his team will control sporting activities, yet puzzle how any organisation can put its very core business in the hands of a minority shareholder, and how that meaningfully works in practice.

“It is now incumbent on the club’s owners and management to properly explain how this new structure will work, where the new investment will be directed and how it will benefit the team on the field.

“As the Supporters Trust, we expect to have discussions with the club management and the Ineos team in the near future to understand their plans, and to put to them the very many questions fans have today.

“Today might – just might – be a step forward for Manchester United after some very difficult years. But with the Glazers still in charge, people should understand that United fans will remain sceptical and wait for the proof in the pudding.”

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