Sir Dave Brailsford the brains behind Sir Jim Ratcliffe's Man Utd revolution

Sir Jim Ratcliffe and Sir David Brailsford

The Glazers hang on but new co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe injects much-needed optimism at Old Trafford by assuming control of footballing matters. With a 13-month sale saga finally at an end, Telegraph Sport details the main protagonists in Manchester United’s next act:

The lead actors

Sir Jim Ratcliffe - co-owner who takes control of sporting matters

Finally, Britain’s most ambitious billionaire sporting investor seizes the prize he sought most of all. Having previously been burnt during attempts to buy a Premier League giant, Ratcliffe played the long game and, this time, a cute one. Nobody proved willing to meet the Glazers’ £6bn valuation so Ratcliffe adapted his offer over the summer, agreeing to instead buy 25 per cent with the prerequisite that he would assume sporting control. United become the jewel in a sporting crown for a figure who has presided over a sporting land grab over little more than five years.

For the first 20 years of its existence no-one except business junkies had really heard of the chemicals multinational Ineos, let alone the man who owned it. But Ratcliffe’s profile has rocketed with acquisitions that include Sir Ben Ainslie’s America’s Cup team, Team Sky, Ligue 1 Nice, Eliud Kipchoge’s sub-two hour marathon challenge, All Blacks investment and a stake in Mercedes F1.

The son of a joiner and an office worker who grew up on a council estate in Failsworth, Greater Manchester – hence his lifelong support of United – Ratcliffe is a proud, unapologetic industrialist and engineer. This is a man who faced down the unions at Grangemouth, had little time for environmental campaigners in Yorkshire in 2019 when they protested his efforts to drill in a number of locations across the county.

His tough deal-making background equipped Ratcliffe well for his 13-month saga with the Glazers. He realised by the summer that he was only realistically going to secure a deal by entering into partnership. But in return for agreeing a reduced 25 per cent deal at £1.24bn, Ratcliffe has total footballing control

Sir David Brailsford and Jean-Claude Blanc - new football board members

Ratcliffe is to turn to his two most senior figures in his sporting empire as he plots how to transform United. The two key figures at Ineos are set to be handed footballing-side board membership roles as part of a major overhaul in operations which will gather pace by the summer.

Brailsford is the man who introduced “marginal gains” to British Cycling but has had oversight across Ineos Sport since 2021 and has already been seen at Carrington on fact-finding missions.

Ratcliffe’s trust in Brailsford has helped the performance specialist bounce back at the top after a controversial period in which integrity questions were raised for British Cycling during his golden era in charge. Brailsford’s philosophy at Ineos is to share best practice between different sports to extract top performance. “Take nutrition,” he said over the summer at the Tour de France. “You can take the best learnings from that, and shift it across into football or into the sailing team.”

Jean Claude Blanc, Ineos Sport’s CEO, is a more recent recruit, with his arrival last December coinciding with a sharp upturn in fortune for Nice in Ligue 1. While Brailsford’s pedigree is in other sports, Blanc is an experienced football administrator, having been former marketing executive of Paris Saint-Germain and a former CEO of Juventus.

Sir David Brailsford
Brailsford's 'marginal gains' approach revolutionised British track and road cycling but it was not without its controversies - Martin Rickett/PA Wire

John Reece and Rob Nevin - new company board members

Reece is Ratcliffe’s top money man as financial director at Ineos. Reece joined the chemicals conglomerate in 2000, less than two years after its founding, and has played a key role in the company’s enormous success, having helped oversee Ineos acquiring two chemicals businesses from BP in 2021 for $5 billion.

Reece derives his fortune from his minority stake in Ineos and, according to Forbes, is worth £6bn. Nevin, meanwhile, is chairman of Ineos Sport and was part of the group, with Brailsford and Claude Blanc, who visited Old Trafford in March. He previously served as business director and CEO of Ineos Nitriles.

Nevin had 40 years of commercial experience in the petrochemical business, having joined BP in 1981 as a graduate engineer and has spent over half of his career in manufacturing at various BP sites.

Joel Glazer – executive co-chairman and owner

The Glazers’ frontline roles are no more as the new Ratcliffe era marks the dawn of a more harmonious relationship with the club’s fanbase. However, while other siblings fade into the background as sleeping partners, 56-year-old Joel is likely to want to be closest to operational matters, albeit on a more marginalised basis.

Ratcliffe may find Joel a more engaged point of contact than Avram. He is much better liked by some as he is seen as far the most committed of all the siblings to United, having previously taken charge of sanctioning major player dealings.
Dictating club business from his office in Washington DC, Joel is a regular at Tampa Bay Buccaneers but never at Old Trafford. Promised efforts to increase fan dialogue since the collapse of the Super League plot have also been half-hearted.

Glazers and Solskjaer
Joel Glazer, left, takes his place on a three-man committee with Ratcliffe and Sir David Brailsford but Avram, right, will fade into the background - Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine

“We also realise that we need to better communicate with you, our fans, because you will always be at the heart of the club,” he wrote in 2021 during the peak of supporter fury.

Supporting cast

The Glazers

Since the siblings inherited their sporting empire from father Malcolm, Avram has generally stood shoulder to shoulder with Joel at United. Both will be handsomely rewarded as they fade into the background, with Kevin, Bryan, Edward and Darcie also counting their profits. The Glazers, who will now largely take a backseat role at the club, are set to pocket around £650m from the sale of Class B shares.

The executive team

Richard Arnold’s departure as chief executive, replaced on an interim basis by United’s general counsel Patrick Stewart, was a show of intent from Ratcliffe weeks before the deal was announced. Blanc and Brailsford will now have the most influential day-to-day influence in the new structure but it is yet to be seen whether a new long-term CEO is brought in.

Sporting directors

John Murtough expects to play a part in the transition period despite uncertainty over his position as football director. Telegraph Sport has reported how Crystal Palace’s Dougie Freedman, the former Tottenham recruitment chief Paul Mitchell, Atalanta’s Lee Congerton, the former AC Milan duo Paolo Maldini and Ricky Massara and Andrea Berta of Atlético Madrid have all been under consideration for roles at the club.

Paolo Maldini at Anfield
Paolo Maldini, who helped to build Milan's first scudetto-winning squad for 11 years in 2022, is one of the names in the frame - Claudio Villa/AC Milan via Getty Images

Coaches and players

United have spent more than £400 million with mixed results under Erik ten Hag, but Ratcliffe has ruled out rushing into any decisions as the January window will expire while the Premier League is still assessing his credentials. Ten Hag has Ineos’s backing for the short term. Resolving the future of England winger Jadon Sancho, who has been exiled since early September after a falling out with Ten Hag, will also quickly become a priority.

Dealmakers and breakers

Colin Neville and his New York-based colleagues at Raine are set to walk away with millions for brokering the agreement, but the Premier League’s directors’ and owners’ test is likely to spend at least another month assessing Ratcliffe’s eligibility as a Premier League investor. With Nice flying high, board restructuring at the French club may also be needed to ensure Ineos can comply with Uefa multi-club ownership rules for Europe next season.