Sir Jim Ratcliffe now appears to have the edge over Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al-Thani for the ownership of Manchester United.

Two years ago this month Manchester United fans were truly united in desire to rid the club of the Glazers and staged unprecedented protests outside Old Trafford.

The desire to rid the club of the inept ownership remains, but supporters are divided over a preference for who takes over.

We are admittedly blessed to have two credible options, with Qatari bidder Sheikh Jassim and British investor Sir Jim Ratcliffe both tabling multiple offers for the club.

Now, according to The Sun, the Glazers have decided Ratcliffe is their preferred option. A decision is expected to be formalised by banking firm The Raine Group over the coming days.

This isn’t final, by any means, yet. But right now it appears Ratcliffe is in pole position, whether you like it or not.

United fans have been divided over a preference for who takes over. Sheikh Jassim has greater wealth, and is pledging a 100 per cent buyout, taking the club debt free. Ratcliffe is not.

Others favour the Ratcliffe takeover as the club would be taken under British ownership, opposing Qatar on moral grounds.

So working on the basis the sale to Ratcliffe’s Ineos goes ahead, how has the Monaco-based billionaire managed to do it?

Photo credit should read DIRK WAEM/AFP via Getty Images

How Sir Jim Ratcliffe won the Glazers over

Sir Jim Ratcliffe has great wealth, with his company Ineos a multi-national giant with huge turnover. But even amid a £5 billion bid, his funds are not quite the bottomless pit which the Qatar offer attempts to provide.

Importantly, Ratcliffe appears to have understood this. In a straight bidding war with the Qataris, he could not win, so he has adopted a smarter strategy.

Ratcliffe appears to have understood the Glazers’ whims and indecision, and is offering Joel and Avram Glazer the chance to stay in minority shareholder roles.

Throughout the process there has been a risk the Glazer stay, and just accept a minority bid to shore up their overall stake. Ratcliffe appears to have struck a middle ground.

This is a move which has created consternation among many fans. The words ‘full sale only’ were emblazoned on a banner as fans marched ahead of the home game with Aston Villa at the end of last month.

Ratcliffe reportedly has a plan, per Sky News, to force a total buyout of the Glazers shares by 2026. This would solve the problem, while leaving them with no real power or sway in the meantime.

But he has recognised their desire not to part ways totally with the club initially, and has utilised this to his advantage, to gain an edge in the takeover battle.

Along with his decision to attend Old Trafford personally for talks, which Sheikh Jassim did not, Ratcliffe has displayed business savvy and acumen to gain an edge over his richer rival.

Whether Ratcliffe as an individual or his ownership model, is your preference or not, the way he has gone about his bid has been shrewd.

Sheikh Jassim’s initial declaration of interest earlier this year managed to offend the Glazers, The Times reported.

The Raine Group warned bidders not to criticise the Glazer family in attempts to win public support. The report claimed: “A statement from the Qatar bid in particular is understood to have caused consternation among those running the process, with the promise to return United to its “former glories” seen as implied criticism of the present owners.”

While this was back in February, first impressions can count for a lot, and the Qatari bid may have been behind the curve from day one.

Ratcliffe has refused to criticise the Glazers, even if some fans would like him to. Back last year when speaking at a Financial Times event, he said: “I have met Joel and Avram. They are the nicest people, I have to say, proper gentlemen.”

Keeping cordial relations with the Glazers has smoothed the path. While we wait on confirmation of the decision to sell the club to Ratcliffe, we can only observe that the would-be buyers’ smart strategy has paid off.

There are challenges ahead. Ratcliffe must win over fans unhappy at his ‘deal with the Glazers’ to take power. But if this agreement is the price of success, it should be noted he is unafraid to take a PR-risk to gain his ultimate goal. In the end it is his actions running the club on which he will be judged, and that is where the hard work will start.

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