Exclusive : Ratcliffe Sees Himself As ‘Custodian’ Of Manchester United’s ‘Best Interests’

Sir Jim Ratcliffe sees himself as a ‘custodian’ of Manchester United, and intends to use his influence ‘in the best interests’ of the club.

That is the opinion of the legendary football writer Patrick Barclay, who interviewed Ratcliffe and several members of his team in for the book Grit, Rigour & Humour : The INEOS Story, which was released earlier this year.

Barclay’s interviews with Ratcliffe came after the billionaire declared his intention to buy the club last August, but before the Glazer family announced their strategic review of the club; enabling the journalist the opportunity to get an insight into how the Nice owner might see himself as owner of the Old Trafford club.

Speaking exclusively on this week’s Talking Devils podcast, the first thing Barclay was keen to stress was that Ratcliffe is a bonafide United supporter, following cynicism after his failed bids to buy Chelsea and Barcelona.

“One thing is for sure, he is a Manchester United supporter,” Barclay said. “He told me he doesn’t have heroes, but if he did, it would be Eric Cantona, and he went into great detail about the Cantona effect. I told him a statistic I often use that in the season when Cantona signed, before he played, United were scoring one goal a game. Cantona came and instantly it was two goals a game. He absorbed that statistic with due contempt and proceeded to come out with more, explaining that if you subtract the year of Cantona’s ban, he won the league in every full season he played. He was very proud that friends had got together to give him a birthday present of video tributes from people, such as David Beckham and Alex Ferguson, but he was wowed by Eric Cantona’s video.

“He told me a story about going to watch United play at Elland Road when he was about 14. The place was packed, there were a couple of fans trying to jump over a wall. He jumped over the wall with them. The police were grabbing a few of them, but Jim managed to jump up and into the ground. I thought his credentials were proven quite convincingly.”

“He had plenty of opinions. He’s just like a fan. When he talked about Nice, he talked about the manager’s decisions… I couldn’t be certain that he’s not going to stick his oar in at Old Trafford. I suspect Erik Ten Hag might be offered the benefit of his opinion. He’s like any other fan would be if they had lots of dosh and had the chance to buy into Manchester United. That’s my impression, anyway. He might rein himself in. He’s full of his own opinions and he’s an assertive guy.”

Ratcliffe is rumoured to be close to agreeing a deal to acquire a 25% share in the club which would allegedly give him control of footballing operations at Old Trafford.

While the finer details are still to be ironed out and communicated, one thing that is clear to Barclay is how Ratcliffe perceives his potential role at the club, should he be acquire a position of influence.

“He’s not said a word against the Glazers, even in private, actually, so it seems pretty obvious that he’ll be working alongside them,” Barclay explains. “The difference, I think, is that they say they are custodians. He actually believes that. He believes that the reality – and I’m putting words in his mouth here, but I don’t think he’d wildly disagree – of true ownership of the club is in the fans and the financial ownership of the club should be seen as a stewardship, as a duty of care, and I think he will use his influence in the best interests of Manchester United, plain and simple. That means winning football matches and winning trophies and using the global power of the club brand to produce the maximum success on the field. To that extent, even though it isn’t the end of the Glazer ownership by any means, it will feel different.”

You can hear these comments and more by watching the full podcast below, or listening to it on all major podcast platforms.

Subscribe to the audio podcast on Spotify here, and Apple Podcasts here.

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