Premier League: Can Man United's White Knighton ride to the rescue?

As the same old problems on the field afflict Man United's start to the new season, A former club director offers hope to the fans off the field. But John Roycroft wonders how realistic is Michael Knighton's bid for the club. 
Premier League: Can Man United's White Knighton ride to the rescue?

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag (top right) and Cristiano Ronaldo (centre) before the Premier League match against Brighton at Old Trafford, Manchester.

The good news for Manchester United is that they have agreed a deal for Juventus midfielder Adrien Rabiot. The bad news is that their bid for ageing Bologna striker Marko Arnautovic ended after their £7.6m bid was humiliatingly rejected. Their other striking target, Benjamin Sesko, concluded soon as he decided to go to RB Leipzig. They are still hoping to land Barcelona's Frenk de Jong in a tale of coming and going, so epic that it makes War and Peace look like The Beano. All that, while there is still no more clarity on whether Ronaldo is staying at Old Trafford, and the fans look set to revolt on the day the team plays their traditional greatest rival.

2018 shot of then West Ham United player Marko Arnautovic. A bid by Man United for the ageing striker was rejected by Bologna. Picture: Peter Byrne/PA Wire.
2018 shot of then West Ham United player Marko Arnautovic. A bid by Man United for the ageing striker was rejected by Bologna. Picture: Peter Byrne/PA Wire.

Frailties

Any optimism in the new era under Erik ten Hag was short-lived when the same old frailties in defence were expertly exposed by Brighton at Old Trafford on the opening day of the Premier League. But the rumblings among fans and United punditry indicate the young Dutch manager may be collateral to the war that's about to be declared on the club's owners.

Fans are considering ramping up their protests over the Glazer ownership by staging a widescale boycott of Old Trafford.

A demonstration against the owners resulted in an Old Trafford megastore being closed before Sunday's opener with Brighton. And in the aftermath of the defeat, fans took to social media to call for a full boycott of the ground in order to send a powerful message to the American owners.

'Empty Old Trafford' trended on Twitter this week, with several people proposing a walk-out similar to AC Milan moves in 2015, where the 80,000-plus-seat ground stood almost totally empty as fans stayed away from the San Siro in protest at how the Rossoneri were being run by Marina Berlusconi daughter to the former owner and Italian Prime Minister Silvio.

Fans hold up a banner as they protest against the Glazer family, owners of Manchester United, before their Premier League match against Liverpool at Old Trafford, Manchester. on Sunday, May 2, 2021.
Fans hold up a banner as they protest against the Glazer family, owners of Manchester United, before their Premier League match against Liverpool at Old Trafford, Manchester. on Sunday, May 2, 2021.

Online forums, under the hashtag #EmptyOldTrafford, agreed on an early protest date of next Monday week for the much-anticipated evening clash against neighbours Liverpool. Should the protest go ahead, there is no underestimating the level of humiliation, not to mind financial damage, it would have on the club. The sight of Old Trafford abandoned to the travelling hoard of Liverpool fans would be a profound statement and something the Glazer ownership would be eager to avoid no doubt.

Last May, fans walked out of Old Trafford in the 73rd minute of their game against Brentford, chanting 'We want Glazers out'. So the threats are genuine.

Knight's tale

Former Manchester United director Michael Knighton has revealed he’s “ready and waiting” to complete a “hostile” bid to buy the club from the “useless” Glazer family.

Knighton — who famously came close to buying the club in 1989  — said: “We are a club in crisis and we all know the reason why. We have an inept and frankly useless ownership who know little about this game of football."

Former Manchester United director Michael Knighton has revealed he’s “ready and waiting” to complete a “hostile” bid to buy the club.
Former Manchester United director Michael Knighton has revealed he’s “ready and waiting” to complete a “hostile” bid to buy the club.

In an interview with Man Utd The Religion, the former Carlisle owner said,“Everyone knows that we need new ownership of this football club and that is my aim and those are my objectives. I am making good progress, continuing to talk to the people, I have got some good pledges and good finance.

“We are now working on the offer document. Remember, it is a hostile bid — that simply means that the club isn’t officially for sale. But my intention is to present these owners with a legitimate, potent and commercial offer to say: ‘You have run out of road, it’s time to go because your time is up.'

While a move on removing the Glazers from the ownership of Man United would come as welcome news to the fans. There is no indication of the veracity of Knighton's claims that he has the funds and backup to make a genuine bid for the club, or will it be as ill-fated as his 1989 attempt to buy the football giant.

Back then he offered £20m for the club. He would be expected to stump up £4.5bn to £5bn for his takeover to be taken seriously. If Knighton has the backup to find the resources to make a bid it might prove desirable to the fans, but it will probably have to come with another couple of billion pounds in investment in the playing staff and stadium refurbishments. All of which does little to remedy the situation at hand right now for ten Hag and the confusing spaghetti that is the club's current line of recruiting.

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