Boyhood Manchester United supporter Sir Jim Ratcliffe remains the sole confirmed bidder to take over the club heading into Friday’s ‘soft deadline’ for offers, amid continued reports of interest from Qatar.
The club’s owners, the Glazer family, announced last November they were conducting a strategic review, with the sale of United one option being considered.
American merchant bankers Raine were brought in to assist the club in assessing offers, and on Friday it is thought anyone interested in buying must formally indicate their interest and submit proof of funds.
At this stage only Ratcliffe, one of the UK’s richest men, has publicly expressed an interest.
His company Ineos told the PA news agency last month: “We have formally put ourselves into the process.”
Reports started to emerge of Qatari interest in the club last week. The Daily Mail reported a Qatar-based consortium was interested in a full buyout.
The Qatar Investment Authority, Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund with assets estimated at more than £370billion, has since been linked with a full buyout in other reports, something denied by multiple sources PA has spoken to.
Should a Qatari bid be put forward, PA understands from conversations on Thursday it is likely to come from a private fund.
Reports of Qatari interest have been criticised by Amnesty International.
Peter Frankental, the human rights group’s UK economic affairs director, told PA last week any Qatari buyout would be a “continuation of (Qatar’s) state-backed sportswashing project”.
Amnesty and other groups have criticised Qatar over its treatment of migrant workers and its criminalisation of same-sex relationships.
There is also the possibility of interest in United from Saudi Arabia.
Last November, the country’s sports minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal told the BBC that the government would support any Saudi private sector bids for United or Liverpool.
The country’s sovereign wealth fund already owns a controlling stake in Newcastle.
Should either Ratcliffe or a bid from the QIA move forward, there could be questions to answer regarding their involvement in other clubs.
Ineos owns French top-flight club Nice, while Qatar Sports Investments owns Paris St Germain. QSI is understood to be a wholly separate entity to the QIA, but QSI and PSG chairman Nasser Al Khelaifi does sit on the QIA board.
UEFA regulations prohibit individuals or legal entities having control or influence over more than one club participating in a UEFA club competition.
Neither United nor Raine has commented on the process.