Delusional, optimistic and realistic takes Ratcliffe could be bluffing over Manchester United

Potential Manchester United buyer Sir Jim Ratcliffe broke his silence on rumours he could buy the club from the Glazers.

And on the face of it, his comments were not very encouraging. It certainly was not the response Manchester United supporters were hoping for.

Ratcliffe told a Financial Times conference: “Manchester United is owned by the Glazer family. I have met Joel and Avram. They are the nicest people, I have to say, proper gentlemen. 

“If it had been for sale we probably would have had a go. We can’t sit around hoping United will become available.”

The instant takeaway is of course one of disappointment. Ratcliffe is a billionaire who has the funds to buy United, and the passion, also expressing in the interview that he is a Manchester United supporter.

The current Nice owner was the most realistic hope of deposing the Glazer family, and while it was encouraging to have our hopes raised in the summer, now they have been dashed, and it was all for nothing.

Or is it? There is more than one way to read Ratcliffe’s comments…

Delusion, optimism and realism

Ratcliffe made a point of complimenting the Glazers. This didn’t go unnoticed. The American owners have been stubborn, the say the least, and it is sensible for any potential buyer to get on good terms with them.

The very fact a meeting took place between Ratcliffe and the Glazers is notable in itself. When it comes to ridding United of the unwanted owners, it may come piece by piece.

A spokesperson for Ineos told  The Times in August: “We would be interested in talking [over a stake] with a view to long-term ownership.”

It may be a delusional approach to still believe there is something in this, and that talks are not dead, but let’s be open minded. In fact they may only just be beginning, and Ratcliffe is bluffing, playing the long game.

This is where we can stay optimistic, that Manchester United fans have a part to play, by continuing to protest and attempt to make the Glazer ownership untenable.

United fans have to keep the pressure on, and raise it to levels not yet seen before. The Glazers need to be convinced to sell; and at that stage, the contacts established by Ratcliffe may put him at the front of the queue.

Photo credit should read DIRK WAEM/AFP via Getty Images

The context of the comments is also noteworthy. Even if a deal were close, would Ratcliffe choose to release the details of this in a public forum, and send share prices rocketing? Of course not.

Similar to a manager choosing to stay diplomatically silent over a player he wants to buy, businessmen don’t publicly talk about deals which are in the works, before they are completed. This is how the world works.

So there is hope. Perhaps a little less than previously, or perhaps more, if Ratcliffe’s very acknowledgement of talks with the Glazers is viewed as a positive step forward.

Manchester United fans can’t ever give up on forcing the Glazers out. The club will outlast them. It may yet take a more aggressive takeover to push them closer to the door from another party, while Ratcliffe is towing to the old saying ‘keep your friends close, and enemies closer’.

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