Billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe wants to buy Manchester United, GOAL can confirm, as the owner of chemicals company INEOS has made it clear he is prepared to buy-out the unpopular Glazer family, if they can be convinced to sell the club. There is growing belief the much-maligned American owners are prepared to release their hold on United in the face of mounting pressure from fans.
Reports in America have claimed they are considering selling a stake in the club, which it is understood Ratcliffe would be open to buying.
However, one of the wealthiest men in Britain would prefer to take full control and has the funds to end the Glazers' rule.
How much would it cost to buy Man Utd?
Sources familiar with major sporting acquisitions claim it would take around £6 billion ($7.2bn) to buy the club.
Chelsea were sold for a record figure in May when Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital bought out Roman Abramovich for £2.5bn ($3.2bn), with a further agreement in place that £1.75bn ($2.1bn) will be invested over 10 years. That deal was struck with the Blues under intense pressure to find a quick agreement after Abramovich was sanctioned by the UK government for his links to Vladimir Putin.
Because Manchester United own a significantly larger stadium and are one of most commercially successful clubs in world sport, it is anticipated the Glazers could command a much higher asking price.
Why are the Glazers unpopular?
There are protests anticipated at Old Trafford on Monday for Manchester United's match against Liverpool in another fan action against current ownership. In May 2021, for example, the fixture between rivals was postponed when protesters stormed the pitch, tried to enter the dressing room and created a dangerous environment.
The Glazer family have owned shares in Manchester United since 2003, gaining control of the club in June 2005. They took on debt to acquire the Red Devils and have been in uncertain financial circumstances ever since.
Their decision to join the failed European Super League was particularly unpopular among supporters.
And Manchester United's terrible start to this campaign, which sees them bottom of the table for the first time since 1992, has upped tensions even more.
Who is Sir Jim Ratcliffe?
Ratcliffe is the owner of chemicals giant, INEOS, and is estimated to be worth around £13bn ($15.7bn).
He is a life-long Manchester United fan and just last week, Michael Knighton - who himself is trying to lead a hostile takeover of the Glazers - name-checked Ratcliffe as a potential saviour of the club.
Ratcliffe owns French club Nice and launched a late bid to buy Chelsea earlier this year - but missed out after failing to meet the deadline to submit an official offer.
Is the interest serious?
Sources close to Ratcliffe previously claimed he had little interest in buying a Premier League club. But his move for Chelsea - particularly the timing of it - was seen by some as a notice of intention to top-flight clubs in England that he was ready and willing to make a move.
His personal support of Manchester United has made him a natural buyer if the opportunity arose.
But will the Glazers sell?
That remains the major question.
There have been growing noises in recent years that the family would entertain bids of a certain figure, with a Saudi-backed take-over long-mooted. The official line from within Manchester United has always been that they are not for sale.
But the Glazers are facing mounting costs at a time when their on-pitch fortunes are at their lowest ebb in decades.
They sit bottom of the table after two games, with new manager Erik ten Hag desperately trying to bring in signings before the transfer window closes.
It is likely to take transfer investment in excess of £150 million ($180m) to have any chance of mounting a top four challenge this season, and considerably more going forward if they are to close the gap to Manchester City and Liverpool.
The Glazers have also announced their intentions to carry out much-needed redevelopments at Old Trafford in what would amount to another steep financial commitment for a debt-ridden group.
It remains to be seen how the necessary work could be funded without the guarantee of Champions League football or with the family's continuing to take out multi-million pound dividends annually.
Who else could bid for United?
Knighton has already announced his intention to put together a consortium - but major investors from around the world will be watching developments closely.
Chelsea were seen as a rare opportunity to buy one of the biggest clubs in the most popular league in the world. Manchester United are viewed as an even more valuable asset given their international brand strength.
The Ricketts family, who own the Chicago Cubs, have already been linked, while Woody Johnson, owner of the New York Jets, and Steve Pagliuca, who owns the Boston Celtics, all attempted to buy Chelsea and could approach the Red Devils in similar fashion.