Ratcliffe eyes same move as Qatar rivals as Man Utd takeover ramps up

Ratcliffe leaves Old Trafford after Man Utd takeover talks

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Manchester United takeover hopeful Sir Jim Ratcliffe is set to take the same decision as his Qatar rival Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al-Thani as the battle to take control of the Premier League club hots up. Both of the billionaires have made it through to the second stage of the bidding process and held talks with United officials last week in an attempt to edge closer towards a conclusion.

The Mirror report that the Qatari banking tycoon will launch an improved bid that exceeds the £4.5billion offer he made in February after discussions with United’s hierarchy reached a positive conclusion. And CBS Sports report that Ratcliffe is ready to follow suit having completed his first round of discussions.

A Qatari delegation representing Sheikh Jassim’s bid visited Manchester on Thursday and, in a lengthy 10-hour meeting with club chiefs, it is understood positive discussions were held regarding his plans for the club – both on and off the pitch.

Likewise, Ratcliffe flew into the city on Friday after watching Nice’s Europa Conference League tie the night prior to his trip and the INEOS founder held ‘substantive talks’ with the club, having been joined by an entourage of key figures from his company.

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The 70-year-old was given a tour of Old Trafford and the club’s training complex at Carrington before engaging in discussions. He was greeted by United chief executive Richard Arnold, with INEOS director of sport Dave Brailsford – the former Team Sky supremo – also present.

 The Briton – listed as the 55th richest man in the world with a net worth of £18.5bn ($22.5bn) – was pictured smiling as he walked around the club’s 74,310-capacity stadium. Ratcliffe’s entourage also included INEOS co-owners Andy Currie and John Reece, and the company’s leading figures Rob Nevin and Jean Claude Blanc.

The sight of Ratcliffe making the visit in person could prove to be crucial as he seeks to use his British connections to help smooth over the deal. Sheikh Jassim was conspicuous in his absence, however, and was represented Shahzad Shahbaz, the president of the Nine Two Foundation – the company that would be listed as the holding company of United if the deal goes through.

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It has been claimed Sheikh Jassim and his representatives initially had doubts about all of six members of the Glazer family wanting to sell Manchester United, according to reports.

However, these concerns have now been ‘reduced’ following talks with the club on Thursday, giving a boost to his bid as he wants to take 100 per cent control of the club.

While the club’s future is still undecided off the pitch, Erik ten Hag insists he and his players will not be distracted by speculation regarding their new owners, with an important FA Cup quarter-final clash with Fulham to navigate on Sunday.

“I’m focused on the game. We play a big game on Sunday, all our focus is on that, others in the club are dealing with potential investors,” the Dutchman said. “My job in this moment is focus on the game so let’s talk about the game, it’s a big tie and we have to get ready for that.”

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