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Sir Jim Ratcliffe has jokingly questioned whether his Manchester United takeover rival Sheikh Jassim even exists after completing the purchase of a minority stake in the Red Devils.

Ratcliffe and Qatari businessman Sheikh Jassim were the two public bidders looking to take full control of United from the Glazer family which has owned the club since 2005, before Ratcliffe’s focus switched to securing a smaller stake.

His Ineos company now controls football operations as part of a deal which will see him own 28.9 per cent of the club by the year’s end.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe was confused by the lack of bidders for Manchester United
Sir Jim Ratcliffe was confused by the lack of bidders for Manchester United (Simon Peach/PA)

Reflecting on the long road to the completion of the deal, Ratcliffe admitted he did find it strange that there was an apparent lack of interest in buying United in comparison to when Chelsea came onto the market in 2022 and that his main rival for full control was someone who “still nobody has ever seen”.

“The Glazers never met him. I’m not sure he exists,” he joked.

“It was extraordinary. That (apparent lack of wider interest) was confounding. There’s no comparison between Chelsea and Manchester United, the scale of Manchester United is incomparable with any of the London clubs to be honest with you.”

Asked whether he thought he may have been bidding alone rather than against Sheikh Jassim, Ratcliffe said: “They (the Qatari bid) were obviously there and there was a whole host of people on the team, on the squad. I didn’t ever meet them. But it was a very odd affair.”

Representatives who worked with Sheikh Jassim during the period of his interest in United have been contacted for comment by the PA news agency.

Ratcliffe was asked about whether he held a long-term ambition to ultimately gain full control of United and whether he was concerned that ‘drag-along’ rights held by the Glazers which could force him to sell his stake in the event they wished to sell.

“There are all sorts of scenarios. We might get hit by an asteroid,” he said.

“There have been lots of opportunities for people to come in and buy Manchester United in the last 12 months – why is it all going to change?”

Asked if taking full control was his ultimate aim, Ratcliffe said: “The ultimate aim is just for Manchester United to play really good football. It’s not about what am I going to do in five years’ time?”

Ratcliffe admitted there had been a number of “false dawns” in getting to the point where the deal was completed.

“I remember at the Monaco Grand Prix, which was in May, we opened a bottle of very expensive champagne and all celebrated,” Ratcliffe recalled.

“But that was a false dawn, and we went through several more false dawns after that.

“We had a few surprises on the way – not of the Glazers’ making – we just kept bumping into problems, particularly with the non-executives on the board.”

Ratcliffe was also confident the deal would not lead to any issues for United in regard to UEFA’s rules on multi-club ownership.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe
Ratcliffe has a vast portfolio of sports team under Ineos (Martin Rickett/PA)

Questions have been raised over whether the current regulations would United and French side Nice to enter the Champions League in the same season, given Ineos now controls football operations at United and is the majority owner of Nice.

Ratcliffe did not anticipate any problems, and added: “There are no circumstances upon which an ownership of Nice would prevent Manchester United from playing in the Champions League – I’ll be crystal clear on that. Because we would have to find a solution.

“The rules are changing, and the rules are shades of grey, not black and white. We have spoken to UEFA and I have to say the conversation wasn’t directed at ‘you have to solve this problem and we don’t like it’.

“We might have to change some things but what UEFA recognises is that the multi-club model, in many circumstances, benefits the smaller club quite a lot.”