United have been up for sale since last November when the owners, the Glazer family, announced a strategic review.
Sheikh Jassim, a banker, and the British petrochemicals billionaire Ratcliffe, through his company Ineos, have emerged as the two most persistent bidders, submitting offers that have valued the club at around £5bn. The Glazers are thought to want more.
Ratcliffe, a lifelong United supporter, had proposed buying a majority stake in a deal which would have left the Glazers with a stake in the club their late father, Malcolm, acquired in a leveraged buyout in 2005. Two of the six Glazer siblings – Joel and Avram – are thought to be particularly keen not to sell up completely.
However, Ratcliffe has contemplated a new proposal which could entail him taking about 25 percent of United and which would leave the Glazers in control.
In contrast, Sheikh Jassim has maintained he wants to acquire all the shares in the club.
Supporters have protested about the Glazers on multiple occasions and have regularly chorused for them to go this season.