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Sir Jim Ratcliffe continues Manchester United charm offensive with fans’ meeting

Sir Jim Ratcliffe at Old Trafford during Manchester United's 2-2 draw with Spurs

Sir Jim Ratcliffe is “ruthlessly focused” on making Manchester United successful again, according to the leading fans group that held lengthy talks with the club’s incoming minority shareholder on Monday.

The Ineos founder stepped up his charm offensive by meeting members of the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust (Must) board as well as civic leaders in the city.

Ratcliffe, together with Ineos’ sporting director Sir Dave Brailsford and chief executive Jean-Claude Blanc, spent more than an hour with Must on Monday discussing his plans for the club.

The Oldham-born billionaire, who is set to be handed complete control of football operations at Old Trafford as part of his £1.03 billion deal for a 29 per cent stake in the club, also met with members of United’s fan advisory board and held a video call with the wider fans’ forum.

During the talks, Ratcliffe is said to have made it clear he views the club as a “community asset” and stressed that his “purpose in taking a share in United is not to make money” – a stance he had also outlined to club staff during meetings at Old Trafford and Carrington earlier this month.

Stock market rules limited what Ratcliffe was able to say until his deal gains regulatory approval, which is expected by early to mid February.

But his willingness to meet prominent fans’ representatives so early and have an open dialogue was warmly received by supporters accustomed to the Glazer family’s silence.

“His main message was that everything at United needs to be ruthlessly focussed on creating winning teams on the field – something we are sure all fans will agree on,” Must said in a statement.

“He also expressed the view that he views our club as a ‘community asset’ and stressed that his purpose in taking a share in United is not to make money.

“We were able to set out to Sir Jim what we think the key priorities are – a clear plan to get back to the top, putting in place a football structure with the right people in the right roles, an investment plan in both the teams and the stadium, and building a genuine and strong partnership with fans that supports success.”

United last won the Premier League title in Sir Alex Ferguson’s final season in charge almost 11 years ago, and the Glazers have presided over a dramatic slump in the club’s fortunes. Erik ten Hag’s side are currently eight points adrift of the top four and facing a battle to qualify for the Champions League while the FA Cup is the last piece of silverware realistically available this season. One of Ratcliffe’s first moves is likely to be the appointment of a director of football as Ineos bid to end years of failed recruitment.

Must said they hoped the meeting would prove “the start of an ongoing dialogue both with Sir Jim and his team”.

“We all know the journey back for our club is not a short one – and the proof of the pudding will be in the eating,” it added.

“But most fans agree that the signals Ineos has sent in the last few weeks are encouraging. Continuing that dialogue on your behalf, to promote supporters’ interests, is number one priority for Must in the months and years ahead.”

Later in the day, Ratcliffe held talks with senior representatives from Trafford council and Greater Manchester Combined Authority, including mayor Andy Burnham, to discuss United’s role in the community and, crucially, the potential redevelopment of Old Trafford. Ratcliffe has already promised to invest around £240 million in the stadium as a starting point.

Ratcliffe has already visited Old Trafford and United’s Carrington training base, holding meetings with staff as well as manager Ten Hag.

On Sunday, he was at Old Trafford to watch United draw 2-2 with Tottenham, his first game since news of the deal was announced on Christmas Eve.

Ratcliffe sat next to Ferguson in the directors’ box and said his involvement with the club he has supported since he was a boy was the most exciting venture of his life.

Meanwhile, Hannibal Mejbri has completed a loan move to Sevilla until the end of the season.

Hannibal Mejbri in Manchester United kit
Mejbri has opted not to go to the Africa Cup of Nations - Action Images via Reuters/LEE SMITH

The Spanish club have the option to sign the Tunisia midfielder for €20 million (£17.2 million) in the summer.

Colombian striker Mateo Mejia, 20, is also joining Sevilla on a free transfer from United, who have inserted a 25 per cent sell on fee in the deal.

United winger Facundo Pellistri is also attracting considerable interest from across Europe although if the Uruguayan follows Hannibal by leaving on loan this month it is understood that another forward, Amad Diallo, will remain at Old Trafford.

Left-back Álvaro Fernández has been recalled from his loan from Granada ahead of a potential move to Benfica.

England winger Jadon Sancho and Netherlands midfielder Donny van de Beek have already left on loan this month for Borussia Dortmund and Eintracht Frankfurt respectively.

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