Mariners dismiss report on Man United takeover talks

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MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australian club Central Coast Mariners on Tuesday dismissed a local media report that they had been in "lengthy discussions" with Manchester United about a potential takeover by the English Premier League side.

Mariners owner and chairman Mike Charlesworth said last August he was looking for a new investor to take over the top flight A-League club, who are based in Gosford in the eastern state of New South Wales.

The Nine Network-owned Sydney Morning Herald said England-based Charlesworth had been in talks with United about buying the license of the Mariners and turning it into a sister club.

The proposed takeover could see the Mariners uprooted from their Central Coast base and relocated to Sydney's northern suburbs, the paper said, but the club's Chief Executive Shaun Mielekamp dismissed the report as "just noise".

"The chairman has held discussions with a number of clubs and interested parties across a number of years regarding the sale of the club," he said in a statement.

"Speculation is nothing more than speculation and it is important like in the pre-season none of this distracts anyone at the club.

"Reports like this simply serve as a means of distraction from what is a positive season on the field, and the club will make no further comment on the matter."

United's Premier League rivals Manchester City bought a majority stake in A-League side Melbourne Heart in 2014 and re-branded them Melbourne City before buying them outright.

Melbourne City were runner-up to Sydney FC in the 2019/20 season.

United and the Mariners have ties through United assistant manager Mike Phelan, who was appointed Sporting Director at Central Coast in 2018 before joining Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's staff at Old Trafford the following year.

After finishing bottom of the A-League in 2019/20, the Alen Stajcic-coached Mariners are surprise leaders in the current campaign with six rounds to complete before the playoffs.

The Mariners enjoyed a brief surge of global publicity in 2018 when eight-times Olympic champion Usain Bolt came to the club for a high-profile trial but the Jamaican sprinter was unable to agree terms and left after a few months.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford)