Manchester United are about to enter a new era in the club’s history, with Sir Jim Ratcliffe set to buy a 25% stake in the club – but how much do we know about him?
It has been nothing but endless torment for United fans since 2005 who have had to watch the family run the club into no man’s land, while absorbing as much profit as they can possibly muster up after they completed a leveraged buyout of the Red Devils.
Qatari businessman Sheikh Jassim has gone head-to-head with British businessman Sir Jim Ratcliffe in a bid to buy the club, but with the Lancashire-born billionaire now in pole position, now is as good a time as ever to do some recon on the potential new United owner.
Ratcliffe is no alien to the football world, already owning Ligue 1 side OGC Nice and Swiss side FC Lausanne-Sport, but what do people around the billionaire make of him and his interests?
The Danish stopper – and son of United legend Peter Schmeichel – now plays for a club owned by Ratcliffe after moving to Nice last summer.
Appearing on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football ahead of Leicester vs Everton, he said: “One of the biggest reasons that I joined Nice was because of INEOS and because of Sir Jim Ratcliffe and Sir Dave Brailsford, their vision and how they want to evolve their sports.
“Because they’ve been successful, not just in business, but in every other sporting venture they’ve thrown their investment at. I think with Manchester United particularly, Jim [Ratcliffe] is a big fan of the club and that speaks a lot to fans.
“He’s someone coming in who cares deeply about the club. From my own experience at Nice, he’s a man who is present, he comes to games, a guy that’s knowledgeable about football and who has a vast knowledge about performance in general.
“He has people like Dave Brailsford working for him, who again, are present and I think that’s the main thing with any club I’ve played at, look at Leicester, for example, the owners are present and there is not a divide.
“So I think – and I’m biased hoping INEOS are the preferred bidders – let’s wait and see.”
🗣️ "One of the biggest reasons that I joined Nice was because of INEOS."
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) May 1, 2023
Sir Lewis Hamilton
“I am very close with Jim so I am aware of where he is at (with United),” Hamilton said ahead of the Mercedes AMG W14 car launch for the 2023 Formula One season: “We talk a lot about football as he is very passionate about it.”
“We have great discussions about what his team is doing, we talk about how Arsenal is playing. Obviously he is from Manchester so that is his dream home… where he comes from. But there is no further information I can give you on that.”
Ratcliffe’s petrochemicals company INEOS is the principal partner of the F1 team, hence the relationship between the pair.
Neville said on Sky Sports in January: “Jim Ratcliffe was born in Manchester and knows the area. If he wins it, I think there will be a lot of very happy Manchester United fans. He would want to do the right thing by the club – in fact I am sure that he would. That’s the main thing beyond the Glazers leaving, that they don’t hand it over.
“I don’t think United can hand it over to another investment firm who are expecting a return on their money,” He clarified, adding: “That’s what worries me a little bit about private enquiry coming into football and that ultimately, they are looking for a return on their money and a return on their investment.”
Welsh midfielder Ramsey also plays for Nice and has similarly spoken on Ratcliffe’s work at the club, telling L’Equipe: “I spoke to several players about the club, and I was seduced by the INEOS project.
“To me everything was brilliant, from the vision of the club to the way they wanted to develop. I still wanted to play at a top level, to prove to myself that I could do it and this was the perfect place to show it. It was a great opportunity, and the project is very exciting.”
Back in January, he said: “The owner is very passionate and very invested into Nice and wants to take Nice all the way up to the top. It’s a great project to be a part of.
“It just feels like a family-orientated club. I’m really enjoying my football at the moment, we had a change after the World Cup with the management and they’ve hit the ground running and settled in really well.”
🗣️ "It's come full circle."
Nice midfielder Aaron Ramsey says he is excited about his new challenge… pic.twitter.com/rEHIkBGLV4
— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) August 9, 2022
United We Stand founder and sports journalist Mitten told the BBC in January: “I think a lot of United fans would broadly welcome Jim Ratcliffe – he’s a Mancunian, he was a childhood United fan – but also be circumspect as well.
“Someone like him doesn’t get to being who he is without being ruthless, and if you’re a custodian of a community football club like Manchester United, it doesn’t matter that it’s a worldwide brand, you still need to take care of it.
Asked by the BBC’s Anna Jameson if he had any concerns about Ratcliffe’s links with Chelsea, after trying to buy the London side from Roman Abramovich, Mitten replied: “I’ve got concerns about anyone taking over Manchester United.
“The fact that he [Ratcliffe] became a Chelsea season ticket holder is not ideal, but come on he’s a Mancunian; there’s not a huge number of people with the wherewithal even consider buying United, so I think it would be the best case scenario with someone like Sir Jim Ratcliffe.”
Former Crystal Palace manager Vieira worked under Ratcliffe while in charge of Nice, and opened up on their relationship with FourFourTwo: “He’d never interfere with my work. We’d talk about football when we met, about the team and our lives, but he’s not an owner who will get involved too much and prevent the manager from doing his job.”
He added: “His ambitions and expectations are high, so you know where you stand, but you can do your job freely.”
Barkley left Chelsea to join Nice last summer after his career grinded to a halt, and revealed what kind of impressions he got from the club after speaking with the owner and those around him: “They presented me with a project over multiple years. It is a club that wants to go far, that wants to be a big club at a European level.
“I managed to speak with Dave Brailsford, who showed me the growth project at the club. Jim Ratcliffe also convinced me to come here to help the team progress.”