Manchester United for sale: what now?

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Avram (left) and Joel Glazer
Executive co-chairmen and directors Avram Glazer (left) and Joel Glazer (right) are considering selling Manchester United

Manchester United’s owners sent shockwaves around the world on Tuesday night when they announced they were “exploring strategic opportunities” for the club, which could include its sale.

For the fans, who have been demanding the Glazers’ departure since they arrived in 2005 thanks to a leveraged buyout that still sees United £514.9m in debt and point to more than £600m leaving the club in interest and dividend payments. – it’s what they’ve been waiting for for almost 20 years.

However, there is no certainty about what will happen next.

United have spent heavily on transfers and wages, but it hasn’t brought them any closer to challenging for top honors, something they haven’t been able to do since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.

BBC Sport assesses what’s happening now.

Why do they want to sell now?

United were already committed to a major capital outlay at Old Trafford. In April they appointed master planners but a decision has yet to be made on the extent of the changes. Then in September, chief executive Richard Arnold said the club needed to be “disciplined in our capital plans”.

In other words, the eventual changes – which range from building an entirely new stadium to tweaking the current structure – will require external funding.

Given the additional prospects, including increased competition from cash-rich Newcastle, the funds needed to invest in manager Erik ten Hag’s squad, Chelsea were sold in the summer for much more than planned and the failure of the European Super League to get off the ground – it seems an appropriate time for the Glazer family to test the water in terms of what they could receive from the sale of the club.

Who could buy Man Utd?

For a period of time, a figure of £4 billion has been touted as one that could bring the Glazers to the negotiating table. As a result, they have come to the table first and are waiting to receive offers.

Realistically, there aren’t many sources of funds of this size. There is no possibility of Russian or Chinese involvement, due to the invasion of Ukraine by the former and the latter. government policyexternal link

Saudi Arabia is committed to Newcastle, Qatar Sports Investment should sell Paris St-Germain, while Dubai and Bahrain are neighbors in the Gulf region without any comparable investment.

The Glazers missed out on an Indian Premier League franchise last year but clearly now have contacts in India, a country United are estimated to have around 35 million fans and were due to visit – them as part of their 2020-21 pre-season tour, only for the trip to be scrapped due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Ineos owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe has been a United supporter since his youth and has previously indicated a willingness to talk to the Glazers. Wednesday, the Telegraph reported that the 70-year-old is preparing an offer.external link

However, despite being extremely wealthy, Ratcliffe is unlikely to be able to complete such a deal on his own.

Most likely, it will require more American investment. If the Chelsea sale is any guide, taking into account the sums that may be necessary, a group of private capital will be involved.

Meanwhile, the Financial Times has reportedexternal link Former United winger David Beckham is “willing to hold talks with potential bidders”.

What kind of owner would be acceptable to the fans?

United fans complained about former chairman Martin Edwards, they complained when he floated the club on the London Stock Exchange and they have certainly complained about the Glazers, who they accuse of siphoning huge sums of money from the club in a time when neighbors Manchester City have benefited from massive investment from the owners.

“Two of my longest-serving colleagues at Manchester United say ‘be careful what you wish for,'” said Jim O’Neill, a respected economist and lifelong United fan who was a major presence in the Red Knights group that tried to buy the club in 2010. BBC Sport.

“They point out that a lot of people have never liked any owner United have had.

“You have to be very careful, but it’s very complex. United’s brand seems to have no end. It has remarkable prestige and someone might be willing to pay the kind of crazy price that will probably lead them to sell.”

However, the Manchester United Supporters Trust they know what they don’t want: “The last 17 years have been characterized by debt and decay, on and off the field.

“The vast majority of United fans will agree with the conclusion that you [the Glazers] it seems that it has also arrived: it is time for change.

“Fans will want to scrutinize any potential new owners – above all we implore them not to repeat the mistakes you made – of alienating the fans who represent Manchester United’s greatest asset.”

How long will it take?

It’s pretty obvious to say “as long as it takes”. However, this is the reality.

A speedy conclusion to this process would certainly be welcome. However, as with any sale of this magnitude and complexity, until the offers start coming in, no one can know how long it will take to resolve.

It is hard to imagine that many people would be willing to pay large sums of money without having a significant say in the running of the club. But they may exist, which is why further new investment in lieu of an outright sale cannot yet be completely ruled out.

Does the Glazer family just want to transfer to the highest bidder or are they willing to consider the background of potential buyers? Do they want payment in advance? Or would they accept quotas?

All of these factors can affect how quickly a deal is concluded.

In the meantime, what funding will be made available to Ten Hag? After Cristiano Ronaldo immediate departure was confirmed hours before Glazer’s announcement on Tuesday night, it’s pretty obvious that United need to strengthen their forward line.

However, it’s also clear that there aren’t many strikers at the right level available, let alone in January.

If Ten Hag is to add to their team, where will the money come from if there is no certainty of ownership?

MUST, who only successfully concluded extensive negotiations with United’s owners over a fan participation scheme in August, have made their position clear: “We implore you to move quickly. In football, any kind of stoppage or uncertainty is disastrous.

“If you have decided to sell him, we ask that you do so quickly so that the club can move on without further delay.”

There have been regular protests against the Glazers this season
There have been regular protests against the Glazers this season

Will a sale be made for good?

This is not entirely certain. O’Neill thinks so. And if he doesn’t, he believes a transformation in Glazer’s ownership will be needed.

“I think change is inevitable now,” he said. “But given the publicity surrounding this statement, if the Glazers can’t sell, they will have to change quite dramatically how they chair United ownership in the future and introduce some common purpose and culture that cuts across the club.

“The Ronaldo episode is another ridiculous example of how they wanted to run the club.”

What about Ten Hag?

Thomas Tuchel didn’t last long at Chelsea after the summer’s upheaval and most new owners like to change managers at some point.

However, the Glazer family did not change Sir Alex Ferguson even though, by their standards, United were not in good shape when he took over in 2005.

In Ronaldo’s departure, the club has given massive support to Ten Hag. It would be strange for his status to be questioned in the short term.

And MUST say: “We have a fantastic new manager and we can all see the recent progress on the pitch. So please conclude the review process as soon as possible, identify the best new property for the football club.

“Now is the time for change in the best interests of Manchester United.”

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