Who is Michael Knighton? The 'headcase' who wants to rid Manchester United of the Glazers

Michael Knighton Man Utd Glazers GFXGetty/GOAL

To a certain vintage of Manchester United fans, Michael Knighton will always be that bloke who did keepy-ups at Old Trafford and celebrated in front of the Stretford End after blasting the ball into an empty net. A curious part of the club’s history, long-consigned to the recesses of the mind until he declared his latest intention to launch a buy-out last week.

You see, Knighton has history. The reason he had his five minutes of fame out on the pitch on a late summer’s day in 1989 was because he was set to buy United for the meagre sum of £10 million ($12m).

To cut a long story short – it didn’t happen. So, it is little wonder his latest intentions are being greeted with such scepticism, what with the club now likely to cost in excess of £5 billion ($6bn) by conservative estimates...

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    A 'head-case' or a Trump-like victory?

    Bryan Robson was in no doubt about the man who would’ve been king, describing him as a “head-case” in his autobiography.

    “We could see that he was just on a massive ego trip," the former United captain wrote. "Eventually, after a lot of to-ing and fro-ing and excuses, the deal fell through, thank goodness. We were lucky.”

    Now Knighton, who is said to be worth £5.8m ($7m), is reaching out to a new generation of fans via his erratic social media offerings and his mysterious consortium he insists will finally oust hated owners, the Glazer family.

    Timelines have been bombarded with his Tweets, random words all capped up, “trolls” and “stupid nasties” are called out, while God’s blessings are sent to “you ALL.”

    There is a very Trumpian element to his approach and, in this day and age, if feels impossible to rule anything out – even Knighton's promise that the Glazers “will be GONE by the end of this season.”

  • What is the MK Consortium?

    The problem is, the 70-year-old is very light on details when it comes to precisely how he and his MK Consortium plan to complete what would be the most expensive buy-out in sporting history and dwarf Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital’s recent takeover at Chelsea for £4.25bn ($5.1bn).

    “I’ve got some good pledgers with good finance,” Knighton told Man Utd The Religion. “We are now working on the offer document. It is a hostile bid.

    “My intention is to present these owners with a legitimate and potent and proper commercial offer to say, ‘You’ve run out of ground. It’s time to go because your time is up and frankly the fans worldwide have had enough of this situation.’”

  • SIR JIM RATCLIFFEGetty Images

    Could Ratcliffe finally make a bid?

    It’s notable that Knighton himself describes one of Britain’s wealthiest men, Sir Jim Ratcliffe, as the ultimate saviour.

    The owner of INEOS, who is a United fan, has long-been linked with a move for his boyhood club. He launched a last-minute bid to buy Chelsea earlier this year, to put Premier League clubs on notice of his interest in stepping into the market.

    “We’re still waiting for the great Sir Jim Ratcliffe to come forward because he solves all our problems and makes my job redundant,” added Knighton.

    “But until Jim comes, my consortium will be placing their bid very shortly. That I guarantee.”

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    Winning supporters over

    Fans will need to be convinced by Knighton’s guarantees.

    Younger supporters will welcome just about any opposition to the Glazers, who have remained resolute in their refusal to sell, despite widespread unrest.

    Following their involvement in the failed European Super League, there have been steps towards engaging with the fanbase. A fan advisory board has been set up and a share scheme is advancing.

    But the disastrous start to the season – losing back-to-back games to leave United at the foot of the table for the first time in 30 years, as well as the failures in the transfer window – have led to renewed calls for the Glazers to go.

  • Old Trafford, Manchester United fans, Glazer protestsGetty

    Protests expected

    Protests have been discussed ahead of next week’s clash with Liverpool at Old Trafford.

    That same fixture was postponed in May last year when fans invaded the Theatre of Dreams.

    There are attempts to garner support for another protest on Monday with the #EmptyOldTrafford being shared on social media.

    Still, Knighton will have to come up with tangible evidence he can even launch a bid, let alone convince the American owners to walk away.

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    How his first bid unravelled

    Back in 89, Knighton had plans to turn United into one of the biggest clubs in the world at a time when they were worried about how to fund the redevelopment of the Stretford End.

    Despite a £10m ($12m) deal being agreed, chairman Martin Edwards and other board members had their doubts.

    Eventually, Knighton accepted a place on the board, rather than completing his buy-out in the face of resistance from within the club.

    He later described it as "perhaps the biggest commercial mistake of my life.”

  • A visionary?

    Knighton’s attempts to buy United came before the advent of the Premier League and massive TV deals.

    But he saw what was coming and predicted the huge global success United would become.

    He told the BBC: “It is extraordinary how Martin Edwards has claimed credit for what happened in the following decade after my involvement. Unbelievable!

    "I kept my mouth shut and my head down because my reputation had been hammered and it is virtually impossible to change a public image.

    "But Martin and the other people on the board decided to hide behind the fiasco Michael Knighton caused and claim the credit themselves.

    “If they could really see what was going to happen, why did they agree to sell the club for £10m?”

  • Life after United

    Knighton, who made is fortune in property before his attempted buy-out, resigned from United’s board in 1992. He went on to buy Carlisle before selling up in 2002.

    He describes himself now as a businessman, artist, poet and political commentator.

    If, indeed, his consortium is for real, he might add Manchester United saviour to that list.