Manchester United fans must wait: football’s biggest sale will take time | Manchester United

In the space of four hours and eight minutes on Tuesday, Manchester United put out two statements that will surely go down in the club’s history. First, the mutual termination of Cristiano Ronaldo’s contract was announced at 5.30pm and it was later confirmed the Glazer family were open to selling up. Most United fans welcomed the news. Their ageing prima donna was heading for the exit and there was renewed hope the unpopular American owners might pack up.

It had taken fewer than 10 days from Ronaldo’s melodramatic broadside at United, delivered via Piers Morgan’s knockabout questioning, to the No 7 shirt being vacated. Those in the firing line included the owners, coaches past and present and the club’s training facilities. There was no way back for Ronaldo, not that he wanted one. When his contract was ripped up, the club and player got what they desired.

Whereas the writing was on the wall from the moment the first interview snippet was released, the announcement that the Glazers were seeking a buyer for the club came out of the blue. It has taken 17 years for the Glazers – who bought United in a controversial £790m leveraged buyout in 2005 – to accept the turning of the tide at Old Trafford but it will be a little while before they hand over the keys.

Due to the coincidental timings, fans will hope the sale of the club might follow in the same speedy manner as Ronaldo’s shooing out the door or the collapse of the European Super League. That, however, is unlikely to be the case.

The confirmation that the Glazers are willing to depart in exchange for billions was day one of a lengthy process. When it became public knowledge that Fenway Sports Group was, at minimum, seeking outside investment at Liverpool, it was eight months into the process. Raine Group, which brokered the Chelsea sale and has the same role at United, had the mandate for three years before Roman Abramovich was forced to sell up. Takeovers are a complicated business and the sale of Manchester United will be the biggest in football history.

Money taking and bad decision-making: the Glazers’ legacy at Manchester United – explainer video

Americans are showing the most interest in Liverpool and we can expect the same at Old Trafford, although the British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe is widely reported be keen to acquire the club. Ratcliffe’s Ineos group already owns Nice in France and the Swiss club Lausanne. There is also Saudi Arabia’s sports minister, Abdulaziz bin Turki al-Faisal, saying his country would support any private sector bids.

Where the problems lie, unsurprisingly, are the costs involved in buying such an entity. The asking price is around £3.7bn, which rules out most homegrown investors and others will be put off by the poor state of Old Trafford. It could cost up to £1bn to renovate the stadium and that is a hefty add-on.

Following an unsuccessful bid to buy Chelsea Ratcliffe has said he had a meeting with the Glazers in the summer and they told him the club was not for sale, but months later it is on the market. It is not an overnight decision to sell a business of this size. Did Ratcliffe’s interest make the Glazers contemplate the sale or were their minds already made up and they prefer to not sell to the Ineos founder?

Cristiano Ronaldo.
Manchester United are free of the disruptive influence of Cristiano Ronaldo. Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images

There will need to be in-depth due diligence and that will just be working through the list of Ronaldo’s gripes. There is plenty to be done at United to modernise a club built on Sir Alex Ferguson’s foundations. From business to football, if they want to continue as the behemoth created alongside the Premier League, changes will have to be made on many levels. A new training ground would be one necessity and an overhaul of the commercial operations another.

An optimistic scenario would see a takeover completed next summer in time for the opening of the transfer window. Any incoming owners would want to spend on new players for an early popularity boost, although purely by not being the Glazers they would be one step ahead.

Meanwhile, Ronaldo’s departure will have both a short- and long-term impact. His absence at Fulham allowed Alejandro Garnacho more minutes, before he scored the late winner. If United decide against signing a replacement in January, it would be a boost for youngsters such as the Argentinian.

While most of the first team squad are away at the World Cup in Qatar, the remaining players are training with the under-21s, allowing Erik ten Hag the chance to evaluate his young charges and see who could be worthy of a chance when the Premier League season restarts. The head coach now has the opportunity to look forward, no longer forced to deal with Ronaldo’s disruptive presence.

Thanks to the World Cup, there will be time for the dust to settle at Old Trafford. Fans will not attend a home match until late December, allowing them to absorb the shifting of the sands at United.

There is reason for optimism at United after frustration with owners and a club legend but it will take time for the impact of the past seven days to fully take hold. Good things, hopefully, come to those who wait.

Manchester United Supporters Trust calls on Glazers to sell club quickly | Manchester United

The Glazer family has been urged by Manchester United fans to sell quickly and to make sure they leave the club in the right hands rather than chasing the biggest bid.

In an open letter, the Manchester United Supporters Trust also warns the Glazers that any sort of uncertainty could be “disastrous” and tells them “it’s time for a change”. It comes after reports the Americans want at least £6bn for a club they bought in 2005.

“The last 17 years has been characterised by debt and decline – on-the-field and off it,” Must says. “The vast majority of United fans will agree with the conclusion you appear to have also reached – it’s time for change.

“Fans will want to carefully scrutinise any new prospective owner – most of all we implore them not to repeat the mistakes you did – of alienating the fans that represent the greatest asset of Manchester United.

Despite the high price, United are likely to attract a number of potential suitors. In August, Jim Ratcliffe, the UK’s richest person, expressed an interest in buying United. Some petro-states could also be keen on acquiring one of the biggest clubs in the world.

Must’s letter strongly criticises the Americans for their record before urging them to sell as quickly as possible. “You have made huge amounts of money from Manchester United,” it says. “Hundreds of millions of pounds out, without a single penny of investment in. Whatever commercial objective you had in 2005, we suspect you have met it.

“So now you can do two things for your legacy – the first is to prioritise the best interests of Manchester United Football Club over the financial interests of the selling shareholders. Our club, at this moment in time more than ever, needs the right ownership and that should be the priority rather than simply the highest bidders and highest return for you.

“Second, we implore you to move with speed. In football, any sort of hiatus or uncertainty is disastrous. If you have decided to sell, we urge you to do it quickly to allow the club to move on without any delay.”

It is understood that four of the six Glazer siblings have wanted to sell for a while and the other two, Avi and Joel, have come round to it in recent weeks. The Raine Group, which oversaw the sale of Chelsea this year, has been appointed as the financial adviser.

“We have a terrific new manager, and we can all see recent progress on the field,” the letter says. “So, conclude your review process as quickly as possible, identify the best new ownership for the football club, and get the sale done, so Erik ten Hag has the certainty he needs to invest in the playing squad and we bring in the much-needed investment for the stadium to restore Manchester United to its proper position.

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

Potential sale of Manchester United could inspire overhaul of Old Trafford | Manchester United

Old Trafford: the gleaming jewel in the crown that is Manchester United. A destination venue with a wow factor that teems heritage, culture, modernity, warmth, light and vision. The ground revamped and overhauled or even downsized for the club’s vaunted youth teams to finally have a permanent home while a fresh 110,000-capacity stadium – perhaps named New Old Trafford – is built for the successors of Billy Meredith, George Best, Roy Keane and Wayne Rooney to grace. All of this part of a Manchester United HQ that develops the vast plot of land owned at M16 0RA.

With the Glazers offering notice they may sell, an architect is hardly required to see how a new owner could transform a crumbling and patched-up Old Trafford that has had zero fresh structural redevelopment since Malcolm Glazer bought the club in 2005.

An illustration of what can be achieved is found at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, which took three years to build and cost £1bn and is a shiny testament to vision and ambition. For the 62,000 fans who can attend there is a Michelin star restaurant, numerous bars for home and away fans, a Grade II-listed building, an art gallery, Europe’s largest club shop and, generally, a sense that all was constructed with care and attention.

The finance required for an analogous site would surely start at £2bn but United, even more than Tottenham, have a proud history that could be drawn upon to create a forward-thinking monument to England’s record title-winners that would, in time, show the proprietor a nice profit.

The club was recently valued at about £3.75bn but Ed Woodward, the former chief executive, believed so vast are the revenue streams yet to be tapped that it could easily be raised to north of £10bn.

An example: the official tour of Old Trafford lacks imagination, the highlight being the trumpeted access given to the “actual changing rooms” used by the team during what feels like a bolted-on walkabout. Imagine instead a Manchester United virtual reality palace where, via goggles, you live the fantasy of any United player in any legacy triumph – say Ole Gunnar Solskjær in the 1999 Champions League final – and try to score a famous goal.

Old Trafford
A new owner would raise the possibility of Old Trafford being revamped. Photograph: Jon Super/AP

Or a bespoke Manchester United museum that allows an in-depth, immersive journey from the Newton Heath LYR Football Club of 1878 to the current Manchester United. Or, why not out-Michelin Tottenham and have a two-star rated restaurant that is open not only on match days and sits along side mid-range priced eateries that can be enjoyed after shopping at boutiques, working out at the Manchester United gym, watching the latest Hollywood blockbuster at the Manchester United cinema or a youth production at the Manchester United community theatre?

There is more than enough acreage to achieve all of this and more but instead the Glazers lacked any real desire: a neat shorthand for their 17-year ownership.

This year the Glazers appointed two master planners, Legends International and Populous, with a view to finally redeveloping the club’s home. Then, a spokesperson said: “Manchester United has appointed a team of leading consultants to begin work on creating a master plan for the redevelopment of Old Trafford. Work will begin immediately on developing options for Old Trafford and studying their feasibility, with the aim of significantly enhancing the fan experience.” This appears to have been abandoned.

What the considerable number of United fans will hope is that if they do sell whoever buys does not prove to be the Glazers MK II.

Manchester United fans, how do you feel about the club being put up for sale? | Manchester United

Manchester United has been put up for sale by the club’s owners, the Glazer family, who have announced that they are “commencing a process to explore strategic alternatives”. The news that the family’s controversial 17-year ownership could be ending came on the day Cristiano Ronaldo left the club.

We would like to speak to Manchester United fans around the world about their views on the developments at the club. How do you feel about the team’s future? Would you welcome new ownership of the club?

We would also like to hear from supporters who have taken part in protests against the club’s owners and those who no longer support the club.

Share your views

We will only use the data you provide us for the purpose of the feature. We will delete any personal data when we no longer require it for this purpose. For more information please see our terms of service and privacy policy.

If you are 18 years or over, you can get in touch by filling in the form below or contacting us via WhatsApp by clicking here or adding +44(0)7766780300. Your responses are secure as the form is encrypted and only the Guardian has access to your contributions. One of our journalists will be in contact before we publish, so please do leave contact details.

If you’re having trouble using the form, click here.

Timeline: Glazers and their turbulent reign at Manchester United | Manchester United

2003 Malcolm Glazer buys a 2.9% stake in Manchester United in March, which increases before the end of the year.

2004 Glazer’s stake in club reaches almost 20% in June and nears 30% in October. He makes bids for the club in October and December and removes three directors.

May 2005 Glazer makes a formal takeover bid on 12 May after his stake reaches almost 57%. Before the end of the month he owns more than 76% of the club and the board advise shareholders to accept his bid.

June 2005 Glazer secures 98% of shares and control of United. As part of the family’s leveraged takeover they load their own £525m borrowings on to the club to repay. FC United of Manchester are officially registered by disgruntled fans – later in the year the club kick off the 2005-06 season in the 10th tier of English football.

July 2005 Glazer family members make their first visit to Old Trafford. They end up being driven away in a police van for their own safety amid angry protests.

2006 ‘Love United Hate Glazer’ stickers are put on Old Trafford seats after a goalless draw with Middlesbrough in May as United head for a second-placed finish.

2010 The anti-Glazers green-and-gold campaign begins. In the same year it emerges that the club’s debt has hit £716.5m and that the Glazer family have taken £10m out of the club in “management and administration fees” and personally borrowed a further £10m in the past year. Before the year ends the Glazers pay off a high-interest hedge-fund £220m debt accruing 16.25% interest. This follows the raising of £504m in a bond issue.

2012 United shares start trading on the New York stock exchange. The family make £75m selling a portion of their shares.

2014 Malcolm Glazer dies. The Glazer family sells a further 12m shares for $17 each – making another $200m (£129m). In December, one of the Glazer brothers, Edward, announces the sale of 3m of his shares. Amid fan anger the Glazers rule out selling Manchester United for at least five years.

2015 It emerges that the six children of Malcolm Glazer who own United will be paid more than £15m every year from the club after an announcement that there will be a dividend to shareholders.

2017 The Glazers’ holding company, Red Football, sells 4.3m shares in United, for $17 per share. That is a further $73m (£56m) made by the Glazers.

2018 The Guardian reports that the Glazers’ takeover has drained out of United more than £1bn in interest, costs, fees and dividends since 2005.

2019 The latest dividend paid by the club is revealed to be £23m, of which the five Glazer brothers and their sister Darcie Glazer Kassewitz shared approximately £18m.

2020 United’s net debt increases by £127.4m to £429.1m in the 12 months to 31 March 2020, their latest set of accounts reveal.

March 2021 United’s co-chairman Avram Glazer puts shares worth more than £70m up for sale. Debt is up 16% to £455.5m after 12 months of the pandemic.

April 2021 Supporter anger flares over the Glazers’ attempt to take the club into the European Super League. Fans break into the training ground on 22 April.

2 May 2021 United supporters break into Old Trafford amid a protest against the owners.

Manchester United up for sale as Glazers announce plans to leave Old Trafford | Manchester United

The Glazer family has announced it is “commencing a process to explore strategic alternatives” for Manchester United, potentially bringing an end to its 17-year ownership of the club.

On the day it was also confirmed that Cristiano Ronaldo had left Old Trafford by mutual consent, a statement from United on Tuesday night revealed plans to identify new investment that could lead to a potential sale. The club said the process led by their American owners will consider a number of options “including new investment into the club, a sale, or other transactions involving the company”.

The Raine Group, which oversaw the sale of Chelsea earlier this year, has been appointed as the exclusive financial adviser.

“The strength of Manchester United rests on the passion and loyalty of our global community of 1.1 billion fans and followers,” said the executive co-chairmen and directors, Avram Glazer and Joel Glazer. “As we seek to continue building on the club’s history of success, the board has authorized a thorough evaluation of strategic alternatives. We will evaluate all options to ensure that we best serve our fans and that Manchester United maximizes the significant growth opportunities available to the Club today and in the future. Throughout this process we will remain fully focused on serving the best interests of our fans, shareholders, and various stakeholders.”

United were most recently valued at £3.75bn but would expect to fetch far more given that a consortium led by the US businessman Todd Boehly paid £4.25bn for Chelsea in May.

The Glazer family can expect to attract a number of interested suitors as the successful bidder would have the opportunity to markedly increase the club’s value.

Sky News said United’s share price immediately rose by 17% after reports the glazers were considering a sale emerged, adding almost $400m (£335m) to the club’s market capitalisation.

Old Trafford and the vast land that surrounds the stadium has the potential to undergo a development that would transform it into a destination venue similar to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Spurs’ £1bn investment includes a Michelin star grade restaurant, a complex of high end stores, a Grade II-listed building, an art gallery and Europe’s largest club shop.

In August, Jim Ratcliffe, the UK’s richest person, expressed an interest in buying United. “If the club is for sale, Jim is definitely a potential buyer,” a spokesperson for him said.

Last month, though, Ratcliffe claimed he had met the Glazers and they did not wish to sell.

“We can’t sit around hoping that one day Manchester United will become available,” the Manchester‑born businessman said.

“We have an exciting sporting franchise [the Ligue 1 side Nice], but the one thing we don’t have is a Premier [League] team. The most popular sport in the world is football and it is the sport we were brought up with and it’s the one most close to us. We really should have an asset in the sporting franchise.”

While his interest might now be revived, the sizable constituency of United fans who are hostile to the Americans will be delighted if they do decide to sell. The Glazers have faced serial unrest since Malcolm Glazer bought United in 2005 via a leveraged financial model that loaded a debt on the club that still stands at around £500m.

Manchester United to sue Cristiano Ronaldo and ban him over interview | Manchester United

Manchester United have appointed lawyers to sue Cristiano Ronaldo for alleged breach of contract after claims made by the forward in a recent interview, with the club seeking a swift resolution to the issue.

It means Ronaldo will almost certainly never play for United again and it is understood the 37-year-old has been instructed not to return to the club’s Carrington training base after his participation with Portugal in the World Cup in Qatar.

When speaking to Piers Morgan on Talk TV Ronaldo made a series of allegations about United. These included that he is being forced out by the club, that senior executives lacked empathy after his newborn son died in April, that the owners, the Glazer family, do not care about the club, and that the manager, Erik ten Hag, does not respect him.

On Friday a club statement said: “Manchester United has this morning initiated appropriate steps in response to Cristiano Ronaldo’s recent media interview. We will not be making further comment until this process reaches its conclusion.”

Ronaldo’s contract is worth about £500,000 a-week and expires in July. United had no prior knowledge of the interview given by Ronaldo, who wanted to leave in the summer. He is due to arrive in Doha on Friday at 11pm local time with the Portugal squadbefore the team’s first training session on Saturday afternoon.

Ronaldo is in his second spell at United after a supremely successful six years that ended in 2009 with his having won three Premier Leagues, the FA Cup, two League Cups, the Champions League and the Ballon d’Or. His individual contribution made him a hero for United fans and ranked him among the club’s greatest players.

Ronaldo’s return in summer 2021 was greeted ecstatically by supporters and hailed as a coup by Ten Hag’s predecessor, Ole Gunnar Solskjær. But in going public with his claims against United Ronaldo has seriously damaged this standing and status.

This followed his walking out before the end of the July friendly with Rayo Vallecano and October’s 2-0 league win over Tottenham. Despite this Ten Hag made Ronaldo captain for the 3-1 loss at Aston Villa on 6 November. It seems this will be his final appearance for the club.