Jim Ratcliffe has directly contacted Manchester United fans to plead for patience after agreeing to take a stake in the struggling English football giants.
United announced on Christmas Eve that British billionaire Ratcliffe had agreed a deal to buy a 25 per cent stake in the club for about $1.3 billion, with Ratcliffe vowing to return the Premier League side to the “top of world football”.
United also announced in a statement on Sunday that Ratcliffe’s INEOS chemicals company would take control of football operations after years of under-achievement under the US-based Glazer family, the club’s current owners, who retain majority control at Old Trafford.
Ratcliffe, 71, has now written to several fans’ groups, including the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust, insisting INEOS “are in for the long-term” but stressing success on the pitch “will require time and patience”, with fans also hoping he can redevelop a crumbling Old Trafford ground.
“I wanted to write to you at this time given the critical role of the fans to the future of Manchester United as we recognise our responsibility as custodians of the club on your behalf,” explained Ratcliffe on Tuesday.
“I believe we can bring sporting success on the pitch to complement the undoubted commercial success that the club has enjoyed.
“It will require time and patience alongside rigour and the highest level of professional management.
“You are ambitious for Manchester United and so are we. There are no guarantees in sport, and change can inevitably take time but we are in it for the long term and together we want to help take Manchester United back to where the club belongs, at the very top of English, European and world football.
“I take that responsibility very seriously.”
AWAITING REGULATORY APPROVAL
Ratcliffe added he would not be speaking about club matters until the deal had received regulatory approval.
But, provided that sign-off happens, Ratcliffe’s involvement will bring to an end a lengthy saga that began 13 months ago when the unpopular Glazers said they were considering “strategic alternatives” to help the club grow.
Ratcliffe, who tried to buy Chelsea last year, grew up in the Manchester region and describes himself as a committed fan.
His group has extensive involvement in sport, owning French Ligue 1 club Nice and Swiss side Lausanne-Sport, as well as the INEOS Grenadiers cycling team.
The Glazers bought the club for £790 million ($1.47 billion at the time) in 2005, loading the 20-time English champions with debt.
Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani and Ratcliffe made offers in the region of £5 billion for a complete takeover, but that fell short of the Glazer family’s valuation.
Sheikh Jassim withdrew his bid to buy 100 per cent of the club in October while Ratcliffe continued to pursue a minority shareholding.
United have not been crowned Premier League champions since Alex Ferguson’s final season in charge, in 2013.
They languish eighth in the Premier League this season, 12 points behind leaders Arsenal, and have been knocked out of the League Cup and the Champions League.