It's already one-nil to Sir Jim Ratcliffe for just turning up in Manchester United takeover bid

Richard Arnold (left) Sir Jim Ratcliffe (right) - It's already one-nil to Sir Jim Ratcliffe for just turning up in Manchester United takeover bid - Telegraph/Eamonn and James Clarke
Richard Arnold (left) Sir Jim Ratcliffe (right) - It's already one-nil to Sir Jim Ratcliffe for just turning up in Manchester United takeover bid - Telegraph/Eamonn and James Clarke

For Sir Jim Ratcliffe maybe it is a case of marginal gains given he arrived at the home of Manchester United with former cycling chief Sir Dave Brailsford, now director of sport at Ineos, in tow.

What are we to read into a smiling Ratcliffe being photographed and filmed outside Old Trafford in the next step of his bid to try to buy United?

What are we meant to read into United’s chief executive Richard Arnold stepping outside the stadium to warmly shake his hand and therefore knowingly be in those pictures?

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Not that Arnold has anything to hide. More pertinently, how does it all contrast with the approach taken by the Qatari bidders who had been at the club 24 hours earlier but were there without the man behind their bid: Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani.

In terms of the “optics” – to use a word that is du jour – it was 1-0 to Sir Jim. Or so it certainly appeared. The Qataris will understandably argue that what matters is the fact they spent 10 hours holding substantive talks and not that Sheikh Jassim was not part of their party of senior advisers, lawyers and bank executives.

But still. Ratcliffe was there and, for United fans at least, it is surely more comforting for them to see a prospective owner actually bother to turn up in person – even if the businessman does not have a reputation for openness.

Nevertheless a marginal gain the Mancunian can make, of course, is to play on the fact that he is a local boy made good – born in Failsworth, less than eight miles from Old Trafford – and was a fan in attendance at the 1999 Champions League final.

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In his statement announcing his bid, Ratcliffe outlined his desire for “putting the Manchester back into Manchester United” which was clearly targeted at the fans even if, for a global club, it did not make an awful lot of sense, especially for a tax exile residing in Monaco.

The Qataris’ pitch was to return United to “former glories” which caused irritation to the Glazers. Their approach follows a similar pattern to other Middle Eastern owners.

Sheikh Mansour is not a visible presence at Manchester City; Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the Saudi chairman of Newcastle United, only became publicly involved once the takeover went through.

And few City or Newcastle fans will argue they have been bad owners. The Qataris will claim that what has taken place over the last two days is not about photo opportunities but about building relationship and trust.

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The counter-argument to that, of course, is trust is better built by making the effort to be there in person. Ratcliffe will certainly hope so after showing a willingness to go through the front door.

Financially, despite his billions, it is no contest between him and the Qataris, while he also has to banish a lingering suspicion that emerged during his in/out and late hijack attempt to buy Chelsea that he is not a wholly serious bidder.

Will Ratcliffe’s PR win actually make a difference? Probably not. For the Glazers this will come down to cold, hard cash and business and it must also be remembered that the bank handling the sale, Raine, has already warned the bidders the process is meant to remain private.

But, undeniably, it did look better that he actually turned up. Even if he fails, he has already enhanced his image.