A wealthy Qatari banker has joined the race to buy Manchester United after being confirmed as the second official bidder ahead of Friday’s soft deadline of 10pm.
Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani, who is chairman of Qatari bank QIB, joins Ineos founder Sir Jim Ratcliffe in seeking to acquire the club from the Glazer family.
Like Ratcliffe, Al Thani claims to be a boyhood United fan, and has indicated his bid would leave the club debt-free, in contrast to the Glazer family’s controversial leveraged buy-out in 2003.
A statement read: “Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani today confirmed his submission of a bid for 100 per cent of Manchester United Football Club.
“The bid plans to return the club to its former glories both on and off the pitch, and – above all – will seek to place the fans at the heart of Manchester United Football Club once more.
“The bid will be completely debt free via Sheikh Jassim’s Nine Two Foundation, which will look to invest in the football teams, the training centre, the stadium and wider infrastructure, the fan experience and the communities the club supports.
“The vision of the bid is for Manchester United Football Club to be renowned for footballing excellence, and regarded as the greatest football club in the world.”
The Raine Group was brought in to assist United in assessing offers, and the PA news agency understands Raine is looking to keep the process moving as quickly as possible, with the first quarter of the year recognised as a key time.
Prospective investors need to demonstrate seriousness in a swift process, leading to suggestions that United could even be under new ownership by the end of the 2022-23 season.
But prior to the Qatari announcement and with rumours of a potential rival bid from Saudi Arabia still circulating, Manchester United’s LGBTQ+ supporters’ group the Rainbow Devils raised “deep concern” regarding interest from nations where same-sex relationships are criminalised.
“Rainbow Devils believe any bidder seeking to buy Manchester United must commit to making football a sport for everyone, including LGBTQ+ supporters, players and staff,” the group posted on Twitter.
“We therefore have deep concern over some of the bids that are being made. We are watching the current process closely with this in mind.”
The Glazer family effectively made the club open for offers in November following a strategic review, raising hopes among supporters their reign was coming to a close.
Meanwhile United boss Erik ten Hag has maintained that the mounting rumours will not serve as a distraction to him or his squad ahead of Sunday’s Premier League clash with Leicester.
“We are following it,” Ten Hag said. “It’s our club and of course we are committed. But we are focusing on football, on training and our way of play, on games. That is what we are focusing on.
“We are really enjoying in the moment with the togetherness. It’s enjoyable to work. We are focusing on games, so others in the club will have to take decisions, give efforts in the process but it’s not up to us.”
Asked if he had spoken to United chief executive Richard Arnold or any of the Glazer family about what could happen with the takeover, Ten Hag said: “No. Just, I will say, from the start, yeah, they involved me, how the process will (be) going.
“I focus on football. They are focusing on other parts, departments of the club. How to get everything, for instance, financed.”