For the second time in his life, Michael Knighton has seen a move to purchase Manchester United go up in smoke. While his motives for speaking publicly are not sinister, the 71-year-old could go down as a key cog in the wheel to liberate the Red Devils from the Glazer family.
Over 30 years ago, Knighton tried – and failed – in an attempt to buy United for £20million. A deal had been agreed upon but ultimately broke down due to insufficient funds – a move which saw the businessman become a director at the club.
Three years at Old Trafford would end when he purchased Carlisle United, a club sitting rock-bottom of the Football League. A disastrous spell up north saw Knighton – worth an estimated £5.8million – hounded out by supporters and fade into footballing obscurity.
However, his name re-emerged amid fan protests at the Glazer family in August. The lack of transfer activity and a poor start to the season caused supporters to vent their anger at the club’s distant owners.
Knighton, seeking a potential opportunity, flirted with the possibility of forming a consortium to buy United. However, by name-dropping Sir Jim Ratcliffe – the multi-billionaire reportedly pondering over a takeover bid – was his public declaration simply a plea for help?
“My consortium is ready and waiting,” Knighton said three months ago. “The funds are pledged, the offer document is being drawn up, and it will be presented.”
He added: “We’re still waiting for the great Sir Jim Ratcliffe to come forward because he solves all our problems, and makes my job redundant, but until Jim comes, my consortium will be placing their bid very shortly – that, I guarantee.”
Fast forward to the present and his previous comments appear to be exactly that. News emerged this week that Ratcliffe will make an offer to end the Glazers’ reign at Old Trafford.
A lifelong supporter, the Oldham-born billionaire had considered a move for Chelsea following Roman Abramovich’s downfall in May. It now appears that, for the second time, Knighton’s “attempt” has ended in failure.
Speaking to BBC Manchester on Thursday, the former director ruled himself out of a potential bid and threw his weight fully behind any Ratcliffe offer. He said: “I’ve been championing the cause of Sir Jim Ratcliffe because he’s already gone public and said I don’t need to take any money out of any football club that I own. He earns enough from a highly-successful business.
“My blood will always be red because of my involvement with that football club. But do I want the director? No. Do I want to be in front of the camera? No. I just want proper football people who care about the soul of Manchester United. It’s still the most magical football club in the world. Who’s going to come in? Ultimately, I just don’t know. I’m hoping and praying it will be Sir Jim Ratcliffe or someone similar.”