Reports emerged on Saturday night that the British billionaire and Ineos chemicals group founder’s main rival in the long-running battle to buy the Premier League giants from the Glazers, Qatari businessman Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al Thani, was withdrawing from the race after becoming frustrated with a lack of progress.
Multiple outlets including Sky Sports claim that Ratcliffe will now pay £1.3billion for a 25 per cent stake at Old Trafford, with Sheikh Jassim having hoped to purchase 100 per cent of the club with a bid worth around £5bn before finally ending his interest in recent days.
A board meeting will apparently be held this week to reach a final agreement with Ratcliffe, a lifelong United fan who made a dramatic late bid to buy Chelsea last year before Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital’s eventual takeover from Roman Abramovich - having previously expressed an interest in 2019 - and has also owned French club OGC Nice since 2019 and Swiss Super League outfit FC Lausanne-Sport since 2017.
Ratcliffe and Ineos also own the Team Ineos cycling team that was formerly Team Sky and have a number of lucrative sporting sponsorship deals including with the Mercedes Formula 1 team and New Zealand rugby, as well as owning the Ineos Britannia sailing team.
Almost a full year has passed now since the Glazers - who took full control at United in 2005 - first announced that they were beginning the process of exploring “strategic alternatives” for the club last November that included taking on possible external investment or sanctioning a full sale.
It quickly became a two-horse race between Ratcliffe and Sheikh Jassim, with both parties submitting multiple bids for control of United.
Sheikh Jassim only ever appeared interested in taking on full control at the club, however, with his £5bn bid via the Nine Two Foundation coming in at almost twice the market value as he also pledged to wipe away United’s debts and invest a further £1.4bn to improve the club’s infrastructure.
Ratcliffe initially appeared to be targeting the Glazers’ 69 per cent stake in United, but it had recently been reported that he was willing to alter his bid to take on a minority share instead in order to bring a drawn-out process to its conclusion after 11 long months - during which time disgruntled United fans have continued to protest against the unpopular current ownership.
United ended their six-year trophy drought by lifting the Carabao Cup at Wembley back in February as they also finished third in the Premier League during Erik ten Hag’s first season in charge to secure a return to the Champions League.
However, they made their worst start to a season since 1989 this term amid an ongoing injury crisis and a myriad of off-field issues, suffering back-to-back European defeats and losing four of their first eight top-flight games to sit marooned in mid-table.
United - whose Carabao Cup defence remains alive ahead of a last-16 clash with high-flying Newcastle - were staring down the barrel of three consecutive home defeats for the first time since 1979 before Scott McTominay’s late heroics saw off Brentford in dramatic fashion last weekend.
They return to action after the international break next Saturday night with a trip to face winless bottom club Sheffield United at Bramall Lane, before the Champions League visit of FC Copenhagen is followed by a home Manchester derby against City and that cup contest against Newcastle - a repeat of last season’s final that United won 2-0.
Some additional reporting by the Press Association.