Manchester United, Jim Ratcliffe and the return of talk about perches

<span>A Big Sir Jim billboard, earlier.</span><span>Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images</span>
A Big Sir Jim billboard, earlier.Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images


A multi-billionaire, Brexit patriot whose love of the UK stops just short of him deigning to reside or pay tax in it, Jim Ratcliffe was officially confirmed as a minority stakeholder in Manchester United earlier this week. The 71-year-old owner of the petrochemicals company Ineos has invested around £1.3bn in a 27% share, which we’re told entitles him and his crack team of trusted lieutenants to take charge of day-to-day running of the club. Following two decades of almost total silence from the Glazers, Ratcliffe’s briefing to journalists came as music to the ears of United supporters, not least because he was careful to tell them exactly what they haven’t heard for 19 years. In short, they’re the real owners because he’s just a custodian who hopes to knock both Manchester City and Liverpool off their perches, re-establishing a team of serial trophy-winners who play swashbuckling football that is pleasant on the eye.

And what’s more, he will do so by employing high achievers who are the finest in their field. “We have to find the best people in the world, ensure they have the right character and personality,” he purred. “And create the right environment for elite sportspeople to be successful. All we’re doing is trying to drive performance on the pitch.” While all this talk was understandably catnip to fans, cynics with no attachment to the club could perhaps be forgiven for thinking they were listening to someone who mainlines episodes of Jake Humphrey’s podcast. Ratcliffe’s talk of “populating all the key roles with people who are best in class, 10 out of 10s” is all well and good, but the fact that his right-hand man is Dave Brailsford surely ought to sound no end of loud alarms.

The man who was in charge of the world’s most boring but crushingly dominant cycling team when a digital, culture, media and sport committee concluded their famous ethos of zero tolerance, transparency and accountability was almost certainly a load of old cobblers, Brailsford has not always been particularly picky about who he puts on the payroll as long as they get results. Adjudged to have been responsible for “inexcusable and unprofessional” failures by the aforementioned committee, Brailsford has now been tasked with marching the corridors and training fields of Carrington to compile notes and then report the findings to his fellow knight of the realm.

While Ratcliffe refused to be drawn on Erik ten Hag’s future, he was less coy when the subject of Mason Greenwood was raised. “The process will be: understand the facts not the hype and then try and come to fair decision on the basis of values which is basically is he a good guy or not,” he said as part of a rambling answer which may have prompted quite a few fans of the club to feel a little green around the gills. Ratcliffe, who apparently moved to Monaco in 2020 for no reason than that he’d reached retirement age and fancied a bit of sun, also suggested the government ought to make a contribution of taxpayers’ money towards a new stadium, which he’s happy to pretend will masquerade as “funding for the north”. And asked by the BBC’s Dan Roan what made a multi-billion-pound football club and its owners feel entitled to public money that might be better spent elsewhere, Ratcliffe said “it’s not for me to opine on that”, despite having just opined on it at commendably audacious length.


Join Scott Murray from 8pm GMT for hot Big Vase MBM coverage of Roma 2-1 Feyenoord (agg: 3-2).


“The last minute is probably a bit of inexperience. Just having a bit more savviness – it’s the 93rd minute, you look up at the clock, it’s 0-0 … we gave a ball away on the edge of our box twice and then he bends one in the top bins. We have got to have a bit of [it] to see out the game because if you can’t win, definitely don’t lose – especially in a knockout game” – Declan Rice reflects on his team’s 1-0 defeat at Porto in the first leg of Big Cup’s Round of Arsenal.


Knocking Manchester City and Liverpool off their perch (a la Alex Ferguson in 2002) will be far from plain sailing for Jim Ratcliffe, the new noisy neighbour, simply because Erik ten Hag is clearly no Fergie. Perhaps Ratcliffe should stick to metaphors about seagulls and sardines” – Adrian Irving.

Re: yesterday’s Football Daily letters. Spurs should buy the Harry Kane statue and park it in the opposition half to stimulate our no-scoring forwards” – John Catton.

I heard a rumour that Chelsea have offered £100m for the Kane statue, provided it agrees a 100-year contract” – Martyn Shapter.

Send letters to Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … John Catton.