Cristiano Ronaldo's Man Utd contract terminated
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It was hard to find a disappointed voice in Manchester when news broke late on Tuesday evening that the Glazer family were putting United on the market. Late sales of modestly-priced champagne may well have been boosted as long-suffering Reds fans on their way back from work chose the occasion to raise a toast.
But if there was one group who might have cause to rue the possible listing it was Liverpool’s owners Fenway Sports whose own search for investment now looks to be competing now in the same market.
Liverpool and Manchester United are very different propositions but they are tied in lockstep to uncertain immediate futures.
And it seems that both sets of owners have come to the same conclusion – spooked by the prospect of missing out on the Champions League cash yet at the same time attracted to selling at the height of the market. If the Glazers see no further upside in the value of United it is both good and bad news for the club.
On the one hand positives are that under Erik ten Hag the direction of travel is undoubtely upwards and they are certainly in the mix for a top four spot. On that alone now is a good time not only to sell but to get on board.
Yet the obvious downside is that Champions League football next season is by no means guaranteed particularly with Newcastle ready to barge one of the big six to seventh in the pecking order.
Throw in the fact that Old Trafford is in clear need of investment – certainly upwards of £300m and possibly as much as £1.5bn – and it is no wonder the Glazers are looking for an out.
Both clubs have waited a respectful time since the collapse of the European Super League before showing their true colours but there is no doubt its failure remains key.
The sticky end for their ultimately doomed ‘Charge of the Tight Brigade’ towards a closed shop has focussed minds at both either end of the East Lancs Road.
United’s valuation at a figure around £5billion looks on the high side for all that they are undoubtedly the biggest brand operating in the Premier League.
Football finance expert Kieran Maguire insisted buying Manchester United is a one-off opportunity with the price tag subject to forces outside of the markets.
“It’s a bit like buying the Mona Lisa,” he said. “There’s only one in the world and people are prepared to pay a premium.”
But United fans’ preferred bidder Sir Jim Ratcliffe is not likely to be willingly held over a barrel which could leave the door open for others.
More American investment is one option but likely to be just as disapassionate and perhaps unlikely given both the Glazers and Fenway seem to believe the top of the market has been reached.
Alternatively there is the middle east which, through sovereign state funds and wealthy well-connected individuals, have already invested in Manchester City, Newcastle, Leeds, Nottingham Forest, Arsenal and Paris St Germain.
Conflicts of interest aside the spending power exercised by that part of the world far outweighs the rest of the field.
Departing striker Cristiano Ronaldo was wrong about much at United in his public shots about the people and club but he was certainly right about one thing.
The Glazers will not much care you suspect who gets to own the club after them if they do complete a sale but they will care about extracting the maximum amount on their investment.
At £5billion football may well have reached its high water mark.
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