Manchester United have been telling fan groups privately that the Glazers want the best new owner for the club – and will not necessarily accept the highest price in any sale.
The news will be greeted with deep scepticism in many quarters but it could reassure some supporters who fear the club could be sold to a petro-chemical state with a dubious human rights record.
It also comes amid speculation and rumour surrounding potential bidders, with the Glazers said to be putting the price at a minimum of £5bn. Britain’s richest man, Jim Ratcliffe, continues to be linked with the club he has supported since he was a boy and expressed an interest in buying in August, although his representatives were not commenting on Wednesday.
Other reports have also suggested that a big American tech or social media giant, such as Amazon or Facebook, could be interested.
What is clear is that the Glazers believe their global fanbase will make them far more attractive than Liverpool, who are also on the market. United have instructed the Raine Group – a US bank which found a buyer for Chelsea this year, while Liverpool’s process is being assisted by Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.
On Wednesday the Glazer family was urged by United fans to sell quickly on the grounds that any uncertainty could be disastrous. In an open letter, the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust also said it was “time for a change” at a club they bought in 2005.
“The last 17 years has been characterised by debt and decline – on the field and off it,” Must says in its letter. “The vast majority of United fans will agree with the conclusion you appear to have also reached – it’s time for change.
“Fans will want to carefully scrutinise any new prospective owner – most of all we implore them not to repeat the mistakes you did – of alienating the fans that represent the greatest asset of Manchester United.”
Must’s letter also strongly criticises the Americans for their track record before urging them to sell as quickly as possible. “You have made huge amounts of money from Manchester United. Hundreds of millions of pounds out, without a single penny of investment in. Whatever commercial objective you had in 2005, we suspect you have met it.
“So now you can do two things for your legacy – the first is to prioritise the best interests of Manchester United Football Club over the financial interests of the selling shareholders. Our club, at this moment in time more than ever, needs the right ownership and that should be the priority rather than simply the highest bidders and highest return for you.
“Second, we implore you to move with speed. In football, any sort of hiatus or uncertainty is disastrous. If you have decided to sell, we urge you to do it quickly to allow the club to move on without any delay.”
One issue those interested in United will have to consider is the vast cost of redeveloping Old Trafford. And Must also urges any new owners to invest in the club.
“We have a terrific new manager, and we can all see recent progress on the field,” it says in its letter. “So, conclude your review process as quickly as possible, identify the best new ownership for the football club, and get the sale done so Erik Ten Hag has the certainty he needs to invest in the playing squad and we bring in the much needed investment for the stadium to restore Manchester United to its proper position. Now is the time for change in the best interests of Manchester United.”