Preferred bidder in Manchester United takeover could be named by end of the week
Bidders for Manchester United are hopeful there will be an announcement regarding a preferred bidder by the close of the domestic season, and potentially as early as Friday this week.
Although that is already much later than expected, and will bring some more clarity, sources with knowledge of the situation are describing it as "another milestone of constant milestones" in a process that could yet go on months.
There has been "cautious optimism" within the INEOS bid due to the nature of the deal they put together, which still has the club priced at a higher value than Qatar's. While the Sheikh Jassim-fronted bid did come in with a twist fourth offer after the supposed deadline for final bids had passed, and it was significantly improved on the third offer, it did not "blow Sir Jim Ratcliffe out of the water" – to use the phrase so commonly uttered in this process. It is also seen by some sources as an acknowledgement that the third offer was surprisingly low.
The reporting of that did lead to a situation where there was some frustration with the Qatar bid and damaged relations, due to what one figure describes as "an attempt to brief their way to a better bid than they actually put in". Last week's offer, however, is at least considered to be competitive against Ratcliffe's. Issues like tension or damaged relations are not seen as particularly influential, though, as this will come down to the hard numbers.
That is nevertheless still dependent on the perspective of the numbers. Both the bidders have been arguing about how their offers are "cleaner" than the other, albeit from different sides. INEOS have been pointing to how theirs will not involve as lengthy a process through the Owners and Directors test, due to the fact it has no complications about state ownership. Meanwhile, the Jassim bid insist their bid is private, although the widespread belief is that it is ultimately backed by Qatar.
That comes amid growing aggravation within the other Premier League clubs about state ownership, particularly in light of the long delay on the Manchester City case – where the club has been charged 115 times for alleged breaches of Financial Fair Play rules – and chief executive Richard Masters' refusal to comment on whether the competition is investigating whether Newcastle United's owners broke "legally binding assurances" on being separate to the Saudi Arabian state. It is expected that if Qatar was to be the preferred bidder, there would be fierce opposition from at least 17 clubs.
The Jassim bid are meanwhile arguing that their offer can be negotiated more quickly, due to the fact it is for all of the Glazers’ shares and an outright buy-out.
The hope among bidders is that there will be clarity on this by Friday.