English billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, new shareholder of Manchester United

The news had become an open secret of which all that was missing was to make it official

English billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, new shareholder of Manchester United

The news had become an open secret of which all that was missing was to make it official. British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, boss of the chemicals group Ineos which owns OGC Nice, acquired 25% of Manchester United's shares, at a price of 33 pounds per share (38 euros). Expected for several months, according to several English media, the sale was negotiated with the Glazer family, the American owners of the Red Devils, and made official on Sunday, December 24, by the Mancunian club.

“As part of the transaction, Ineos has accepted a request from the board of directors to be delegated responsibility for the management of the club’s football operations,” the statement said. At 71, Jim Ratcliffe officially takes the reins of one of the most prestigious clubs in the world.

Restoring the image of the Red Devils is the ambition of the British tycoon whose arrival could lead to a small palace revolution in the Mancunian club, starting with the renovation of the “Theater of Dreams”, its emblematic Old Trafford stadium. The boss of the Ineos-Grenadiers cycling team should also take control of the sports sector. More than a month before his arrival, the departure of general manager Richard Arnold was made official on Wednesday November 15. Vilified for his disastrous management of the Mason Greenwood case, accused of domestic violence and loaned to the Spanish club Getafe, Richard Arnold could be replaced by the former deputy general manager of Paris Saint-Germain (2011-2023), Jean-Claude Blanc, currently CEO of Ineos Sport.

One of the most popular clubs in the world, Manchester United remains majority-owned by the six children of former owner Malcolm Glazer, who died in May 2014: Avram, Joel, Kevin, Bryan, Darcie and Edward. Thanks to lucrative commercial contracts signed by Father Glazer, the club's revenues have increased significantly since his takeover of the club in 2005 – €744 million in turnover for the 2022-2023 season, compared to €243 million in the end of the 2005-2006 season.

Debt at 827 million euros

However, poor sporting results for several seasons – the last league title dates back to 2013 – combined with the Covid-19 crisis, have seriously affected Mancunian finances. According to figures published by the club with twenty Premier League titles, at the end of the 2022-2023 season, its debt would amount to 725 million pounds (around 829 million euros).

A financial pit which pushed the Glazer clan, criticized by a large part of the supporters, to announce the sale, in March 2021, of shares for a total amount of 70 million pounds sterling (80 million euros). Manchester United's board said it was considering "all strategic alternatives, including a new investment in the club, a sale, or other transactions involving the company."

Once in competition with Qatari billionaire Jassem Ben Hamad Al Thani, son of a former prime minister and candidate for the total takeover of the club (for a value of around £5 billion), Jim Ratcliffe finally took a stake in Manchester United. In 2022, the British tycoon had already applied to buy the English club Chelsea.

Could the arrival of the owner of OGC Nice and the Ineos-Grenadiers cycling team affect current coach Erik ten Hag? In sixth place in the championship and 7 points behind rival Manchester City, the Red Devils are currently last in their group in the Champions League, behind Bayern Munich, Copenhagen and Galatasaray.

Furthermore, what will be the future of John Murtough, responsible for Mancunian recruitment and behind the disappointing arrivals of striker Rasmus Hojlund (75 million euros), midfielder Mason Mount (64 million euros) and of goalkeeper André Onana (50 million euros) during the last summer transfer window? According to information from the Telegraph, Paul Mitchell, formerly of AS Monaco (2020-2023), and Dougie Freedman, sporting director of Crystal Palace and acclaimed by the emblematic former coach of the club, Alex Ferguson, are now and already favorites to succeed him. In the difficult Mancunian context, will the boss of Ineos and the Glazers manage to find alchemy?