Michael Knighton has confirmed he is ‘working’ on an offer to buy Manchester United from the Glazer family, calling the current owners ‘useless and inept’.
Apathy towards the Glazers has been high ever since their hugely controversial leveraged buyout takeover that plunged United into enormous debt was completed in 2005. But that has increasingly turned to full blown anger in recent years and has peaked again this summer.
The owners have continued to take dividends out of United over the years, withdrawing £11m in June – the majority was paid to co-chairman Joel and Avram Glazer, despite the need for major investment into the club’s wider infrastructure way beyond just the playing squad.
United then lost their opening game of the new Premier League season at the weekend, with fans slamming the club for failing to equip new manager Erik ten Hag with the necessary tools to succeed.
The Frenkie de Jong saga has dragged on for months without a resolution, while Marko Arnautovic and Adrien Rabiot quickly emerged as panic options on Monday. United have since backed away from Arnautovic, but Rabiot remains on course to arrive after a deal was agreed with Juventus.
Supporters protested against the Glazers in huge numbers outside Old Trafford in April 2021 when the club was part of the failed breakaway Super League and a small number of fans confronted new chief executive Richard Arnold to demand answers and change at the start of this summer.
Knighton, who rose to nationwide fame when he previously tried to buy United from former chairman Martin Edwards in 1989, is determined to try and give the club a fresh start with a hostile takeover bid that he insists is backed with ‘good pledges and good finance’.
"We are a club in crisis and we all know the reason why," he told Man Utd The Religion. "We have an inept and frankly useless ownership who know little about this game of football. Everyone knows that we need new ownership of this football club and that is my aim and those are my objectives
"I am making good progress, continuing to talk to the people, I have got some good pledges and good finance. We are now working on the offer document. Remember, it is a hostile bid - that simply means that the club isn't officially for sale. But my intention is to present these owners with a legitimate, potent and commercial offer to say: 'You have run out of road, your time is up'.
"The fans worldwide have had enough of this regime. The exciting feeling of a new season, which we all have, and that balloon of excitement that is there, it was all burst when we quickly saw the performance against Brighton.
"The club is in crisis and it will remain in crisis while we have this current ownership. We need to rid our football club of this ownership as they have had their day, time has run out and we have had 17 years of disappointment, really. It is time for them to go.
"They have to stop drawing these huge dividends out of the club. We have to stop paying these huge debt servicing costs. It is time for them to sell. Putting this bid together, I don't need to be the front person, I don't need to be the spokesperson. I just want to see our Manchester United Football Club in the hands of proper football people with proper vision."
The 70-year-old also appeared to suggest that the ideal scenario would actually be a separate takeover bid from Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s INEOS group, who failed with a late attempt to buy Chelsea in May after missing the initial deadline for proposals. But Knighton will push with his bid on for now.
"We’re still waiting for the great Sir Jim Ratcliffe to come forward because he solves all our problems, makes my job redundant, but until Jim comes, my consortium will be placing their bid very shortly – that, I guarantee," he said.
Ratcliffe, although known to have a Chelsea season ticket, was born in Manchester and grew up a United fan. He is widely known as one of Britain’s richest people with a personal fortune estimated at around £6.075bn this year and placed 27th on The Times’ latest annual rich list.
Knighton was initially a teacher by trade but made his fortune in property in the 1980s. At the end of the decade, his £20m offer to buy United was accepted and he even appeared on the pitch at Old Trafford before a game, ball juggling as a PR exercise.
But after a £10m contract had been signed to buy Edwards’ controlling stake, Knighton’s partners pulled out, forcing him to abandon his takeover and settle for a place on the board instead.
Knighton later owned lower league club Carlisle from 1992 to 2002, at one point appointing himself manager of the team for a 68-game spell between 1997 and 1998.