Manchester United sale saga: Sheikh Jassim’s withdrawal and the future

The high-stakes ownership battle at Manchester United has taken a turn after the withdrawal of Sheikh Jassim from the race.

Manchester United have been up for sale for almost a year now. But, so far nothing concrete has taken place in terms of their sale. However, recently, a major update came in as Sheikh Jassim decided to withdraw from the process of buying the club.

The Qatari businessman wanted to buy a 100% stake in the club, and he was ready to offer around double of what the Red Devils are currently valued at. Despite that, his bid was rejected by the Glazers. As a result, he has decided to drop the idea of buying the Manchester-based club.

The withdrawal of Sheikh Jassim means Sir Jim Ratcliffe is the only other alternative. The British billionaire is looking to buy 25% of the club’s stake. And, as things stand, he could end up having his minority stake by the end of the week.

The Glazers bought Manchester United back in 2005. In 2003, they bought just a 2.3 percent stake in the club for around $5.6 million. And, in two years’ time, the family executed a leveraged buyout of the club at $1.5 billion, securing 98 percent of the shares.

They borrowed money using the assets of the club as collateral. Their decision resulted in $787 million of debt from the takeover. Prior to the takeover, the Red Devils were debt-free. As a result, this decision by the family was not welcomed by the fans of the club.

The club was very successful in the initial years after the takeover because of the foundation that was already laid. And, the presence of Sir Alex Ferguson in the dressing room helped a great deal. But, the fans were never really on the side of the owners.

The Glazers were never really seen as owners who loved the club or loved football in general. They were always regarded as a business family who had no interest in running a football club. Their decisions kept offending the fans and post the departure of Ferguson, things went from bad to worse.

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The fans wanted the Glazers to sell the club and banners of ‘Glazers Out’ became a constant feature in and around the stadium. After years of struggle, finally, towards the end of last year, they decided to initiate the sale of the club.

Their decision came on the day when they decided to terminate Cristiano Ronaldo’s contract after the Portuguese international gave an explosive interview where he spoke against the owners as well as the manager. The Glazers handed over the task of selling the club to The Raine Group, which oversaw Chelsea’s takeover.

Sheikh Jassim vs Sir Jim Ratcliffe

Earlier in the year, The Raine Group set a deadline for the first round of bids, with Sheikh Jassim and INEOS founder Ratcliffe being the only ones to have made public bids. In March 2023, they received a second round of bids and both of them were still in the race.

The third round of bids took place in April. Reports suggested that Ratcliffe had revised his offer following which Sheikh Jassim submitted a new and improved fourth bid. The Qatari businessman wanted to buy Manchester United at all costs and even went ahead with another bid. But, all his efforts have gone in vain as the Glazers have decided against selling the club to Jassim.

Withdrawal of Sheikh Jassim from the race to buy United

Sheikh Jassim wanted to buy 100% of Manchester United, and he was ready to offer almost double their market valuation of $3.5 billion. Despite that, he has failed in his attempt and has withdrawn from the process.

His arrival would have brought in a completely new project. A lot would have changed at the club in terms of how they work. While Manchester United have been investing in new players over the past few windows, they have not made any efforts to improve their first-team facilities or renew their stadium.

The Qatari businessman was ready to invest $1.5 billion upfront. The money was supposed to be used to improve the training facility as well as the stadium alongside a few more signings in the upcoming transfer window. There would have been a lot of changes in the hierarchy of the club. And, their aim was to bring back the glory days to Old Trafford.

The Glazers do not really have the best of relations with the fans. And, a new owner who is ready to invest in the club would have surely gained the trust of the fans.

The Manchester United fans were never really in favour of the Glazers because they took a huge debt in the name of the club when they bought it. And, Sheikh Jassim promised to make Manchester United debt-free. This would have done wonders for the club as well as its fans.

In terms of football, investment into training facilities for the first team as well as the youth squads would have helped them get to the level of other top clubs in England. Apart from that, the Qatari businessman has the financial strength to sign world-class players and build a team capable enough to dethrone Manchester City.

Manchester City have been the more dominating team in Manchester over the past decade and Jassim’s arrival would have surely shaken things up. However, that is now unlikely to happen with him withdrawing from the race.

A sustainable project built around new world-class players

The arrival of a new owner that too from Qatar would have made them one of the richest clubs. And, they could have easily bought some of the best players available. Over the past few years, we have seen owners from Saudi Arabia and Qatar use their money to sign some of the best players and build a sustainable project.

Both Manchester City and Newcastle United are examples of how a new ownership shapes things up in terms of new signings. These clubs have not splashed the cash on every top player out there but they do tend to get the best of the lot.

They identify transfer targets early and try to beat the competition by paying whatever is needed. However, they do not overspend on players. We have seen multiple examples of such deals in the recent past. On the other hand, Manchester United, under the Glazers, have spent big on players. They have overpaid players, and things have gone wrong post that.

The signing of Harry Maguire is one of the biggest examples. Even Manchester City were interested in the England international. But, they had set a limit and did not exceed it. Meanwhile, Manchester United signed him as the most expensive defender and at this point in time, he is no longer in the mix.

While rich owners in the Premier League have done great business, the same cannot be said about Paris Saint-Germain of France. They are amongst the richest clubs in terms of ownership and have signed the likes of Neymar, Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe. Despite that, they have not fulfilled their ambitions on the field and their project ended up collapsing.

They made record-breaking signings in order to win the Champions League but have not succeeded yet. Meanwhile, Messi and Neymar have already left the club. And, Mbappe will most likely part ways with the French club next summer.

While things could have gone wrong under Sheikh Jassim, there are more positives than negatives. And, from the viewpoint of a Manchester United fan, the arrival would have surely brought about a change that they have been looking for.

Sheikh Jassim might not have been the best option for the fans

While the new ownership would have surely brought about a change, the fans might not have had that big a say in the plans of the Qatari businessman. Manchester United fans do want to get rid of the Glazers, but they still have a say in how things work at the club under their ownership.

The demands of the fans have been fulfilled by the Glazers even if those were because of sustained fan pressure and protests. But, under the ownership of Sheikh Jassim, things would not have worked that way.

If things went wrong under his ownership, fans would have little say in how the situation has to be taken care of. Fan pressure and protests would not have had any effect on the Qatari owner. They can force the Glazers out at this point, but the arrival of Jassim would have changed things up.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe to buy 25% of stake in the club

Sheikh Jassim’s withdrawal meant the road for Sir Jim Ratcliffe was clear. And, as things stand, the British billionaire is all set to acquire a 25% stake in the club for around $1.5 billion. He will have control over the sporting project despite owning a minority stake and the money will be used to modernise and improve the Old Trafford.

He wants to eventually own 100% of the club and aims to bring back the glory days to Old Trafford. But, owning minority stakes won’t bring about a sudden change, and it will take time. And, as things stand Manchester United have not been at their best for years and do not really have time. Things need to change as soon as possible.

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