Manchester United: Why Sir Jim Ratcliffe's arrival will not end the fans' biggest nightmare

Manchester United: Why Sir Jim Ratcliffe's arrival will not end the fans' biggest nightmare

This was not how it was all supposed to end for angry Manchester United supporters.

When the much-maligned Glazer family invited investment into the club, including exploring a full sale, all the way back in November 2022, supporters danced down Sir Matt Busby Way with glee.

The Americans, who have saddled the club with debt and overseen an era of on-field decline, could finally be ousted, with two credible bidders - Sir Jim Ratcliffe and a Qatari consortium fronted by Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani - submitting their final offers to Raine Group, the US bank overseeing the takeover, early in 2023.

Both parties were given access to the United books on a visit to Old Trafford in March, as a deal, for either party, neared.

Yet, as no news surfaced of a deal being agreed, supporters grew anxious, and protests about the Glazers’ rule became commonplace at Old Trafford once more.

Protests against the Glazer family is not uncommon at Old Trafford (Getty Images)
Protests against the Glazer family is not uncommon at Old Trafford (Getty Images)

And sure enough, as Ratcliffe takes his seat on the boardroom, he still does so alongside six Glazer family members who, between them, retain a 69 per cent stake in the club.

The question is, as United embark on this unholy alliance between one set of overlords who prefer to stay well away in Florida and a Manchester-born billionaire adamant on being the polar opposite with his hands-on approach, is Ratcliffe is here for a good time or a long time?

Who would be responsible for further on-pitch failures? Given Ratcliffe and his football committee are taking control of that area, do fans target the INEOS chairman if Manchester City, once they have recovered from their blip, continue to remain a dot on the horizon?

Ratcliffe has minority stakes in several other sporting entities, but none mean as much as him as United, having been born not far from Old Trafford, where he was a regular in his younger days.

Is Ratcliffe here for a good time or a long time?

Insiders have argued that a man of the 71-year-old’s business acumen, as one of Britain’s richest men, would not get involved for a bit-part role in what is essentially a failing business if he did not have grand, long-term plans for it.

That includes a full takeover, which many experts predict Ratcliffe is eyeing, and this 25 per cent stake is just the first stage.

Should Ratcliffe start to instill his own people at the top of the United hierarchy – right-hand man at INEOS Sir Dave Brailsford and CEO Jean-Claude Blanc, with Richard Arnold having departed as chief executive last month, then it would give a firm indication of Ratcliffe planning well into the future.

Where the problem could lie is the valuation of the club.

Despite consistent failure on the pitch, United as a business is still making money, and lots of it. That is one of the reasons the Glazers will focus on the commercial arm.


But the Glazers are a family divided. The two brothers who remain active in the running of the club, Avram and Joel, never really wanted to sell completely, as they felt their project was unfinished, multiple sources have said.

The other four siblings wanted out completely, given the vitriol towards them from United supporters. However, the family believe the club to be worth much more than Ratcliffe or Sheikh Jassim are prepared to pay and, sources said, insisting it will only get more valuable as time passes.

In the end, this is what deterred Sheikh Jassim, a man with bottomless pockets. Even for him, the Glazers simply wanted too much for an underperforming team with a crumbling stadium that needs major renovation works.

There are ways Ratcliffe can fund further investment. He did explore borrowing money for a full takeover before it became clear the Glazer’s price could not be brought down, and could so again in the future, with any profits he makes from his current 25 per cent stake financing that debt.

For now, however, expect protests to remain commonplace, with there being only one way to appease United fans - bringing an end to the Glazers’ 18-year reign of failure completely.