The Manchester United Supporters Trust has greeted Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s £1.25billion purchase of a 25 per cent in the club with ‘very mixed feelings’.
The deal, which sees Ratcliffe and INEOS take control of football operations, was officially announced on Christmas Eve and will now be ratified by the Premier League – a process which could take between four to six weeks.
But it means United’s unpopular American owners, the Glazer family, retain majority control at Old Trafford.
They have been the target of regular protests over recent seasons and supporter hopes the ‘strategic review’ they announced 13 months ago would lead to their exit from United have been dashed.
The Supporters Trust [MUST] reacted to Sunday’s news by saying: ‘During 18 years of debt, decay and mismanagement, Manchester United fans have loudly and consistently called for change at our Club.
Sir Jim Ratcliffe can raise a smile after buying a 25 per cent stake in Manchester United
The Glazer family have relinquished 25 per cent of United but remain as majority owners
United supporters have held regular protests against the Glazer family’s ownership
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‘When the so-called Strategic Review was announced nearly a year ago, it finally appeared that the sale of the club was on the horizon, potentially bringing the new investment and new direction MUFC so clearly needs.
‘Against that backdrop, fans have very mixed feelings today. We welcome the investment from a boyhood red, Sir Jim Ratcliffe and his INEOS company, but many will wish his ownership stake was greater than the initially rumoured 25 per cent.
‘We note the statements that he and his team will control sporting activities, yet puzzle how any organisation can put its very core business in the hands of a minority shareholder, and how that meaningfully works in practice.
‘It is now incumbent on the Club’s owners and management to properly explain how this new structure will work, where the new investment will be directed and how it will benefit the team on the field.
‘As the Supporters Trust, we expect to have discussions with the Club management and the INEOS team in the near future to understand their plans, and to put to them the very many questions fans have today.
‘Today might – just might – be a step forward for Manchester United after some very difficult years. But with the Glazers still in charge, people should understand that United fans will remain sceptical and wait for the proof in the pudding.’
The new stakeholders will be responsible for everything on the pitch, including signings, and the hiring and firing managers and football staff.
United fans have repeatedly voiced their opposition against the unpopular US owners
Most United fan groups were only in favour of a full sale of the club by the American owners
Ratcliffe, 71, said: ‘As a local boy and a lifelong supporter, I am very pleased that we have been able to agree a deal with the Manchester United Board that delegates us management responsibility of the football operations of the Club.
‘Whilst the commercial success of the club has ensured there have always been available funds to win trophies at the highest level, this potential has not been fully unlocked in recent times.
‘We will bring the global knowledge, expertise and talent from the wider INEOS Sport group to help drive further improvement at the club, while also providing funds intended to enable future investment into Old Trafford.
‘We are here for the long term and recognise that a lot of challenges and hard work lie ahead, which we will approach with rigour, professionalism and passion.
‘We are committed to working with everyone at the Club – the Board, staff, players and fans – to help drive the club forward.
‘Our shared ambition is clear: we all want to see Manchester United back where we belong, at the very top of English, European and world football.’
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Executive Co-Chairmen and Directors, Avram Glazer and Joel Glazer said: ‘We are delighted to have agreed this deal with Sir Jim Ratcliffe and INEOS.
‘As part of the strategic review we announced in November 2022, we committed to look at a variety of alternatives to help enhance Manchester United, with a focus on delivering success for our men’s, women’s and Academy teams.
‘Sir Jim and INEOS bring a wealth of commercial experience as well as significant financial commitment into the Club.
‘And, through INEOS Sport, Manchester United will have access to seasoned high-performance professionals, experienced in creating and leading elite teams from both inside and outside the game.
‘Manchester United has talented people right across the Club and our desire is to always improve at every level to help bring our great fans more success in the future.’
The deal is for an equal proportion of A and B shares and will see Ratcliffe given two seats on the board.
At one stage it was thought that there would be a three-person ‘football committee’ with Ratcliffe, INEOS team principal Sir Dave Brailsford and Joel Glazer.
However, that will no longer be the case with Ratcliffe in control.
The deal, which is for 25 per cent of voting rights and equity, is now expected to take around four to six weeks before approval is given by the necessary parties, including the Premier League.