Manchester United’s owners sent shock waves around the world on Tuesday night when they announced they were “examining strategic opportunities” for the club, which could consist of selling it.
For the fans, who have demanded the Glazers leave from the moment they arrived in 2005 thanks to a leveraged buyout that still leaves United saddled with £514.9million debt – pointing out that more than £600million leaving the club in interest and dividend payments – it’s what they’ve been waiting almost 20 years for.
Still, there is no certainty about what happens next.
United have spent heavily on transfers and wages, but it hasn’t brought them any closer to challenging for major honours, something they haven’t done since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.
BBC Sport reviews what’s happening next.
Why do they want to sell now?
United had already committed to making a significant investment at Old Trafford. In April they appointed master planners but the extent of the changes has yet to be decided. In September, CEO Richard Arnold said the club needed to be “disciplined in our capital plans”.
In other words, the final changes – ranging from building an entirely new stadium to tinkering with the current structure – will require external funding.
Given the added prospects – including increased competition from money-rich Newcastle, the money needed to invest in manager Erik ten Hag’s squad, Chelsea being sold for much more than expected in the summer and the failure of the European Super League to get out of the ground – it feels like an opportune time for the Glazer family to test the waters in terms of what they could receive by selling the club.
Who could buy Man Utd?
A figure of £4 billion has been touted for some time as a figure that might just get the Glazers to the negotiating table. It turns out that they got to the table first and are waiting for offers.
Realistically, there aren’t many sources of funds of that size. There is no chance of Russia or China being involved, because of the invasion of Ukraine by the former and by the latter government policy.
Saudi Arabia is committed to Newcastle, Qatar Sports Investment should sell Paris St-Germain, while Dubai and Bahrain are neighbors in the Gulf region with no comparable investments.
Missing out on an India Premier League franchise last year, the Glazers now apparently have contacts in India, a country where United has an estimated 35 million followers and would visit as part of their 2020-21 pre-season tour just for the journey to be scrapped due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Ineos owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe is a childhood United supporter and has previously indicated willingness to talk to the Glazers. Wednesday the Telegraph reported that the 70-year-old is preparing a bid.
While Ratcliffe is extremely wealthy, it’s unlikely he could complete a deal like this on his own.
Most likely, more US investment will be needed. If the Chelsea sale is any guide, given the amounts likely to be required, a private equity group will be engaged.
Meanwhile, the Financial Times has reported former United winger David Beckham is “open to talks with potential bidders”.
What kind of owner would be acceptable to fans?
United fans complained about former chairman Martin Edwards, they complained when he took the club to the London Stock Exchange and they have certainly complained about the Glazers, accusing them of taking huge sums of money out of the club at a time when neighbors Manchester City have benefited from huge investment by the owner.
“Two of my longest-standing Manchester United friends say ‘be careful what you wish for’,” said Jim O’Neill, a respected economist and lifelong United fan who was a key presence in the Red Knights group that bought the club in 2010. tried to buy. BBC Sports.
“They point out that a lot of people have never had an owner that United has had.
“You have to be very careful, but it’s very complex. United’s brand seems infinite. It has remarkable prestige and someone there might be willing to pay the kind of crazy price they’re likely to sell.”
however, the Manchester United supporters trust know what they don’t want: “The past 17 years have been marked by debt and decline – both on and off the field.
“The vast majority of United fans will agree with you [the Glazers] also seem to have reached – it’s time for a change.
“Fans will want to carefully scrutinize any new future owner – we especially beg them not to repeat the mistakes you made – in order to alienate the fans who represent Manchester United’s greatest asset.”
How long will it take?
It’s pretty obvious to say “while it takes.” However, that is the reality.
A speedy conclusion of this process would undoubtedly be welcome. But as with any sale of this size and complexity, no one can know how long it will take for offers to roll in.
It is hard to imagine that many individuals would be willing to pay huge sums of money without having a significant say in the running of the club. But they could exist, which is why an additional new investment instead of an outright sale cannot yet be completely ruled out.
Do the Glazer family only want to unload with the highest bidder, or are they willing to consider the background of potential buyers? Do they want payment in advance? Or do they accept installment payments?
All of these factors can affect the speed at which a deal closes.
What resources will be made available to Ten Hag in the meantime? After Cristiano Ronaldo immediate exit was confirmed hours before the Glazer announcement on Tuesday night, it’s pretty clear that United need to bolster their forward line.
Yet it is also clear that there are not many strikers available at the right level, even less in January.
If Ten Hag has to expand his selection, where will the money come from if there is no certainty about ownership?
MUST, who only successfully completed exhaustive negotiations with United owners over a Fans Share Scheme in August, have made their position clear: “We beg you to act quickly. In football, any interruption or uncertainty is disastrous .
“If you have decided to sell, we recommend that you do it quickly so that the club can move forward without any delay.”
Will there be a sale for sure?
This is not quite certain. O’Neill thinks so. And if not, he feels a transformation in Glazer’s ownership will be necessary.
“I think change is now inevitable,” he said. “But given the publicity surrounding this statement, if the Glazers can’t sell, they will have to change quite dramatically how they preside over United’s ownership going forward and introduce a common purpose and culture that runs throughout the club.
“The Ronaldo episode is another ridiculous example of how they wanted to run the club.”
And Ten Hag?
Thomas Tuchel didn’t last long at Chelsea after the summer turmoil and most new owners are happy to switch managers at some point.
However, the Glazer family did not change Sir Alex Ferguson, even though United were not in great shape by his standards when they took over in 2005.
When Ronaldo left, the club supported Ten Hag en masse. It would be strange if his status is questioned at short notice.
And MUST say: “We have a great new manager and we are all seeing recent progress on the pitch, so complete your review process as soon as possible and find the best new owner for the football club.
“Now is the time for change in the interests of Manchester United.”