Soccer

Sir Jim Ratcliffe outlines plans for success and glamour at Manchester United

The 71-year-old Ineos founder and chairman wants the club to be seriously challenging for domestic and European titles within three seasons.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe has outlined his plans for success at Manchester United
Sir Jim Ratcliffe Sir Jim Ratcliffe has outlined his plans for success at Manchester United (Peter Byrne/PA)

Manchester United co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe has set out his vision for bringing some of the Eric Cantona glamour and swagger back to Old Trafford.

The 71-year-old Ineos founder and chairman wants the club he has supported since the age of six to be seriously challenging their “noisy” north-west neighbours Manchester City and Liverpool for domestic and European titles within three seasons, and “knock them both off their perch”.

In a wide-ranging briefing, Ratcliffe also:

:: Outlined his hope to either redevelop Old Trafford at a cost of around £1billion, or build a new £2billion stadium with state support that could host England matches, FA Cup finals and Champions League finals.

:: Admitted Dan Ashworth would be “a very good addition” to the Manchester United leadership as sporting director and said it would be “absurd” if he remained on gardening leave after his departure from Newcastle.

:: Pledged that a fresh decision would be taken on Mason Greenwood’s future.

:: Joked about whether Qatari businessman Sheikh Jassim, his long-time rival for full control of United, even existed.

Ratcliffe, who by the end of the year will hold a 28.9 per cent stake in United and whose Ineos company now controls football operations at Old Trafford, conducted the interview with a bust wearing a United number seven shirt stationed behind him, collar turned up in the fashion of the club’s hero of the 1990s Eric Cantona.

“(Cantona) was the catalyst for change in Sir Alex Ferguson’s era … and then that sort of kickstarted everything off. He was the sort of talisman,” Ratcliffe said.

“There has always been a bit of glamour attached to Manchester United which has been lacking a bit in the last few years. You’ve had George Best, Bobby Charlton, Eric the King for a while.

“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.

“And to be honest, since Christmas, with the young lads, they have played some fantastic football.

“There have been some great matches. I can’t remember many matches at the beginning of the season I was really excited by but since Christmas we have played some really good football and there has been a bit of glamour attached to some of these footballers on the pitch, and we have really enjoyed it.

Ratcliffe praised the trio of Rasmus Hojlund, Alejandro Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo
Rasmus Hojlund, Alejandro Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo Ratcliffe praised the trio of Rasmus Hojlund, Alejandro Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo (Martin Rickett/PA)

“The three young lads (Rasmus Hojlund, Alejandro Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo) sitting on the hoarding at the side – that was a good picture. So I think that’s the ‘Eric’ point really. We are cognizant of the fact you do need a bit of glamour in this.”

Ratcliffe says improving the club’s record on recruitment is “top of the list” of things to get right, and publicly stated his club’s interest in Dan Ashworth, who has been placed on gardening leave by Newcastle after expressing his desire to leave the Tyneside club.

“I think it’d be a very good addition to Manchester United, but he (Ashworth) needs to decide whether he’s going to make that jump,” Ratcliffe said.

“We’ve obviously had words with Newcastle. They clearly would be disappointed to lose Dan. I understand why they would be disappointed to lose Dan but but then you can’t equally criticise Dan because it is a transient industry.

“So we’ll have to see how it unfolds.”

Ratcliffe said it would be “a bit silly” if it took £20million to secure Ashworth’s services, and added: “What I do think is completely absurd is suggesting that a man who’s really good at his job, sits in his garden for one and a half years.”

Dan Ashworth is on gardening leave after stepping down as Newcastle sporting director
Dan Ashworth Dan Ashworth is on gardening leave after stepping down as Newcastle sporting director (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Also key to the transformation as Ratcliffe sees it is a redeveloped Old Trafford or a new stadium built partially with state support.

Ratcliffe said a taskforce would be set up to look at the feasibility of the latter option and agreed former Manchester United defender Gary Neville would be an “obvious” person to include on it.

Ratcliffe sees no issue with one of the world’s richest clubs in United seeking state support for such a project.

“The people in the north pay their taxes like the people in the south pay their taxes,” he said.

Ratcliffe wants to redevelop Old Trafford
Old Trafford Ratcliffe wants to redevelop Old Trafford (Peter Byrne/PA)

“But where’s the national stadium for football? It’s in the south. Where’s the national stadium for rugby? It’s in the south. Where’s the national stadium for tennis? It’s in the south. Where’s the national concert stadium? It’s the O2, it’s in the south. Where’s the Olympic Village? It’s in the south.

“All of this talk about levelling up and the Northern Powerhouse… where is the stadium in the north? How many Champions Leagues has the north-west won and how many Champions Leagues has London won? The answer to that is the north-west has won 10 – Liverpool have won more than us – and London has won two.

“Where do you have to go if you get to the semi-final of the FA Cup and you’re a northern club? You have to schlep down to London, don’t you?

“People in the north pay their taxes and there is an argument that you could think about a more ambitious project in the north which would be fitting for England, for the Champions League final or the FA Cup final and act as a catalyst to regenerate southern Manchester, which has got quite significant history in the UK.”