Now the tortuous deal has finally been completed for Sir Jim Ratcliffe to invest £1.3billion in Manchester United and take over football operations at Old Trafford, the INEOS owner can get down to work.
It won’t be formally ratified until February, but Ratcliffe’s influence will be felt sooner than that after he purchased a 25 per cent stake in United.
Mail Sport looks at the key issues facing the 71-year-old billionaire as he tries to revive his boyhood club.
Change the manager?
The feeling around United is that the current regime have been reluctant to take any drastic action over manager Erik ten Hag and are more likely to hand that decision on to Ratcliffe and his INEOS team. Now the investment has been announced, that safety net is being removed.
Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s arrival means the safety net for Erik ten Hag is being removed
Ratcliffe, who has gone through five permanent coaches in three years at one of his other clubs, Nice, has no particular loyalty to Ten Hag and will have watched a turbulent start to the season with alarm.
United have lost half of their 26 games, gone out of Europe after finishing bottom of their Champions League group and scored fewer goals than any other Premier League team besides Sheffield United.
Ten Hag’s position will come into sharper focus now, and if results don’t improve it’s hard to see him keeping his job.
Ten Hag needs to improve on Man United’s dire results if he is to keep his job as manager
Find a new football director
INEOS sporting director Sir Dave Brailsford and chief executive Jean-Claude Blanc are expected to join United’s football club board as part of the deal, but one of the key appointments will be a new football director.
John Murtough is set to move aside and could well be offered a different role in the new set-up.
Dan Ashworth is a leading contender to replace him, although United would have to buy the 52-year-old out of his contract at Newcastle.
Improving recruitment will be central to Ratcliffe’s plans after seeing United blow £400million on new signings in 18 months under Ten Hag, and close to £2billion in 18 years of Glazer rule.
Sir Dave Brailsford looks set to join United’s football club board as part of the Ratcliffe deal
January transfer window
United have said it will be a quiet window as they focus on offloading fringe players, with Donny van de Beek the first one out of the door on loan to Eintracht Frankfurt.
As Financial Fair Play continues to bite hard at Old Trafford, and Ratcliffe’s investment is being ratified, that’s unlikely to change dramatically.
However, it will be interesting to see if INEOS signal their intent with a statement signing for the fans.
Either way, United’s main transfer business will have to wait for the summer, and even then FFP and the cost of an early exit from Europe will impact their spending.
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Donny van de Beek will be the first face out the door under Ratcliffe – more could follow
Overhaul the playing squad
It’s clear that the current United squad isn’t good enough, but overhauling a group of players put together on big contracts by a succession of managers will be no easy task.
One of the most pressing issues facing Ratcliffe is Jadon Sancho, a £73m signing who has been training on his own for four months after falling out with Ten Hag.
Do INEOS try to broker a peace deal between the two men or find Sancho a new club? Could Sancho outlast Ten Hag at United?
Jadon Sancho has not played in four months after falling out with United boss Ten Hag
A decision has already been made on Anthony Martial, whose contract will be allowed to run down, while Raphael Varane will only be kept on if he accepts reduced terms on his £340,000-a-week salary.
Casemiro is another big earner who could be gone by the start of next season, and Murtough’s recent trip to Saudi Arabia is a sign that United are exploring interest in their players.
This is just the start for INEOS on what feels like a long road ahead.
Raphael Varane must accept a pay cut if he is going to be kept on at the club
Revamp or rebuild the stadium?
The name Old Trafford has never felt quite so apt for United’s home. Its reputation has taken even more of a battering this season, from the leaky roof right down to a food hygiene rating of 1/5 for serving raw chicken.
As part of the deal, Ratcliffe has committed an extra £240m to improve the stadium and the Carrington training ground.
However, it will cost closer to £1bn for a full redevelopment, and twice that to rebuild Old Trafford, so INEOS have a major decision to make.