Manchester United sources insist the club is not for sale following speculation over a takeover bid by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.
The Saudi royal family, worth an estimated £850billion, are understood to be interested in buying United from the Glazer family to rival Abu Dhabi’s ownership of Manchester City.
The move would be hugely controversial amid international outrage over Saudi Arabia’s role in the apparent murder of a dissident journalist.
The club already have a connection with the oil-rich Gulf state after announcing a strategic partnership with Saudi Arabia’s General Sports Authority last year.
Speculation was fuelled after it emerged that United co-owner, Avram Glazer, is due to fly to Riyadh for an investment conference next week, although a number of prominent business leaders have already pulled out over Saudi Arabia’s alleged involvement in the disappearance of journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.
However, it’s understood the American owners have no wish to sell a club they bought in 2005 for £790m, even though United are now valued at between £3bn and £4bn.
The Glazers sold two per cent of the club’s shares with limited voting rights in August last year, and may be interested in selling more to the Saudis, but they are unlikely to sanction any deal that would dilute their ownership and control of United.
Saudi Arabia has already delved into the world of sport with purchases in both F1 and WWE – and football is already part of a wider political battle between the Gulf States.
For example, the Saudis, who severed all ties with Qatar last year, banned Qatari channel beIN Sports.
Then channel BeoutQ, allegedly based in Saudi Arabia, apparently started pirating beIN Sport’s coverage of the English top flight.
Crown Prince Mohammad – second in command to King Salman – wants to make his mark in the world of football and views Manchester United as the perfect acquisition, The Sun reported, citing ‘well-placed sources.’
Either a family friend, a Saudi-owned company or the state’s sovereign wealth fund could bid for the Glazer family’s private shares in the club, the report said.