The challenges facing Sir Jim Ratcliffe at Manchester Unitedand how he plans to deal with them

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Published Time: 22.02.2024 - 02:41:01 Modified Time: 22.02.2024 - 02:41:01

Sir Jim Ratcliffe has discussed plans to knock Manchester City "from their perch", redevelop Old Trafford and end United's 11-year wait for a Premier League trophy

Sir Jim Ratcliffe has discussed plans to knock Manchester City "from their perch", redevelop Old Trafford and end United's 11-year wait for a Premier League trophy.

Sports correspondent @RobHarris

Wednesday 21 February 2024 23:10, UK

Through the memorabilia, rather than just his words, Sir Jim Ratcliffe presented himself as caring about Manchester United.

The local lad made goodinvesting in the club he has supported since the age of six.

Here at 71, in the offices of the petrochemicals conglomerate that turned him into a billionaire, as the new part-owner of United.

Behind him a mannequin of a United No 7 shirt of 1990s vintage, the maverick streak of its wearer, Eric Cantona, embodying the spirit Sir Jim espouses.

"There has always been a bit of glamour attached to Manchester United which has been lacking a bit in the last few years," he said.

"At the end of the day we are in the entertainment business. So that's why you don't want to watch bland football or characterless football."

Spread across a table to Sir Jim's left, programmes from United's three European Cup final victoriesin 1968, 1999 and 2008.

This 27.7% stake cost Sir Jim £1.3bn, but history and statusin decline under the Glazerscan't be bought.

"The club is enormous," he said.

"The tentacles reach around the world, don't they? Everywhere I go in the world, it's Manchester United. It affects an awful lot of people on the planet, and getting it right is not easy."

Just ask the Glazers, loathed by the fans for the debt loaded onto the club 19 years ago with a leveraged takeover.

The American siblings are still the leading shareholders, despite relinquishing so much control to Sir Jim and INEOS Sport to get a deal over the line after a protracted 15-month exploration of a sale.

It is still unclear how the relationship will work. Who will really hold the levers of power when the Glazers ultimately oversee the finances?

"I don't think we're going to be taking the legal agreements out of the bottom drawer," Sir Jim said.

"As long as we're doing the right things then I'm certain that relationship is going to go very well."

Even by being here at INEOS' London HQ, Sir Jim is breaking from the past mindsetchoosing engagement over the Glazers' silence when dealing with media and, mostly, supporters.

The antipathy grew as the Glazers tried to drag United into an ill-fated breakaway Super League and the supply of silverware dried up.

This will be the 11th season without winning the Premier League for the record 20-times champions of England.

Sir Alex Ferguson, at 82, has already been consulted by Sir Jim about how to reclaim the supremacy enjoyed until the legendary manager's retirement in 2013.

But the team mentioned most often during Sir Jim's afternoon audience was the one that, for much of United's existence, posed little threat.

Only in the twilight of Sir Alex's time in the dugout did Manchester City emerge as any meaningful challenger. The Abu Dhabi funding that transformed the blue half of Manchester has now turned them into a global force.

With a nod to historyinvoking Sir Alex's remark about Liverpool after arriving at Old Trafford in 1986Sir Jim talked about knocking both the Reds and City "from their perch".

City, he observed, have built a "very sensible structure" with a "really driven competitive environment".

It's so impressive that United have poached Omar Berrada from City to become chief executive.

"I just want to smash them on the football field," Sir Jim said.

Another impending arrival is Dan Ashworth, the brains behind the vision for the transformation of England's teams and Brighton's rise.

The frustration is the millions Newcastle want to release him to become United's sporting director.

The lack of direction and strategy on player recruitment has seen years of wasteful spending.

The squad was valued last season at £1.2bn by UEFAbut Erik ten Hag's men only won the League Cup and came third in the Premier League.

"I know the world these days likes instant gratification," Sir Jim said.

"But that's not the case with football, really. Look at Pep (Guardiola) at Man City, it didn't happen overnight. It takes time to build a squad."

Read more from Sky News:Sir Jim Ratcliffe wants to knock City 'off their perch'New owner asks United fans for 'time and patience'

United have regressed this seasonhovering in sixth place in the league and exiting the Champions League in the group stage.

Sir Jim doesn't just want them competing for trophies, but winning the biggest prizes.

"The fans would run out of patience if it was a 10-year plan, but it's certainly a three-year plan to get there," he said.

"To think that we're going to be playing football as good as Manchester City played against Real Madrid last year by next season is not sensible.

"And if we give people false expectations, then they will get disappointed. So I think the key thing is our trajectory, so that people can see that we're making progress."

The search is on for a football style to winin entertaining rather than an attritional style. And sticking to it through every age group.

"We're not going to oscillate from (Jose) Mourinho style to Guardiola style," Sir Jim said. "That's not the way we'll run the club. Otherwise you're changing everything all the time.

"You change your coach, you've got the wrong squad, the wrong trainer, we won't do that. In modern football you need to decide what's your path and you stick to your path."

That can involve tough decisions, perhaps no tougher in a club than changing manager. There was nothing specific on the future of Ten Hag.

"We're not a brutal organisation, really," Sir Jim said. "Sometimes you do have to make decisions that aren't that popular."

Rebuilding the squad will have to come in tandem with rebuilding the infrastructure with around £240m already committed by Sir Jim to the project.

Refurbishing Old Trafford, he estimates, could cost £1bn.

A more ambitious plan is redeveloping the whole area by building a new stadium for the men's team.

Rather than bulldozing history, the stadium of Best, Law, Charlton, Cantona and Ronaldo would be handed over to the women's team and academy.

But it is not a project Sir Jim believes should be purely financed by the club but from the public purse as London enjoyed with the 2012 Olympics project at Stratford.

He said: "All of this talk about levelling up and the Northern Powerhouse. Where is the stadium in the north?"

Asking the public to fund a stadium, partly on behalf of Sir Jim, might be a challenging proposition.

In recent years, his tax residence has been moved from Britain to Monaco.

"When I got to retirement age, I went down to enjoy a bit of sun," he said.

"I don't have a problem with that, I'm afraid."

This is Sir Jim having enjoyment with his cash rather than just amassing greater wealth through petrochemicals, with United joining an INEOS sports portfolio featuring teams in sailing, cycling and rugby.

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"It's not about a financial investmentthe objective was to get involved and being influential in the future of Manchester United Football Club," he said.

"Certainly the biggest challenge in sport that we've undertaken."

He acknowledges making "really stupid decisions" already in football at Lausanne and Nice. But risk-taking brings rewards.

"In INEOS, we don't mind making people making mistakes," Sir Jim said. "We're much less than sympathetic when they make the same mistake twice."

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