Gary Neville has described Manchester United’s year a “disgrace to the end” after Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s acquisition of a 25 per cent stake in the club was announced on Christmas Eve.
Neville wished INEOS Group chairman Ratcliffe, 71, a childhood United fan who was born in nearby Failsworth, “all the very best” in attempting to return the club to former glories.
But former United captain Neville questioned the timing of the announcement, which came at 4pm on Christmas Eve, writing on X: “Manchester United 2023 has been a disgrace to the end.
“The timing of this is truly awful and no functioning organisation would even think about it.
“Anyway all the very best to Jim Ratcliffe and I hope he can somehow work out a way to get the club right again and back to being something respectable on and off the pitch.”
Ratcliffe’s purchase of a 25 per cent stake comes after the club’s United States-based owners, the Glazer family, revealed their intention to undertake a strategic review of their options, including the possibility of selling up.
United have suffered a poor season so far, losing more matches before Christmas than in any season since 1930 and have not scored for four games – their worst run for 30 years.
Manchester United 2023 has been a disgrace to the end. The timing of this is truly awful and no functioning organisation would even think about it. Anyway all the very best to Jim Radcliffe and I hope he can somehow work out a way to get the club right again and back to being…
— Gary Neville (@GNev2) December 24, 2023
Erik ten Hag’s side have dropped to eighth in the Premier League, eight points from fourth-placed Tottenham, and finished bottom of their Champions League group.
Ratcliffe has agreed to inject around £236million into the club and INEOS will take over the management of United’s football operations.
But Manchester United Supporters Trust has questioned how the relationship between the Glazer family and the INEOS Group will work, calling on the club’s owners to clarify the situation.
MUST also said fans would be left with “mixed feelings” after Ratcliffe’s investment left the Glazers still in overall charge at Old Trafford.
Manchester United reaches agreement for Sir Jim Ratcliffe, Chairman of INEOS, to acquire up to a 25% shareholding in the Company.#MUFC
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 24, 2023
“During 18 years of debt, decay and mismanagement, Manchester United fans have loudly and consistently called for change at our club,” a statement from MUST read.
“When the so-called Strategic Review was announced nearly a year ago, it finally appeared that the sale of the club was on the horizon, potentially bringing the new investment and new direction MUFC so clearly needs.
“Against that backdrop, fans have very mixed feelings today. We welcome the investment from a boyhood red, Sir Jim Ratcliffe and his INEOS company, but many will wish his ownership stake was greater than the initially rumoured 25 per cent.
“We note the statements that he and his team will control sporting activities, yet puzzle how any organisation can put its very core business in the hands of a minority shareholder, and how that meaningfully works in practice.
“It is now incumbent on the club’s owners and management to properly explain how this new structure will work, where the new investment will be directed and how it will benefit the team on the field.
“As the supporters’ trust, we expect to have discussions with the club management and the INEOS team in the near future to understand their plans, and to put to them the very many questions fans have today.
“Today might – just might – be a step forward for Manchester United after some very difficult years. But with the Glazers still in charge, people should understand that United fans will remain sceptical and wait for the proof in the pudding.”
It is understood that Premier League approval for Ratcliffe’s investment could take between four and six weeks.
Ratcliffe’s leadership skills have received a glowing endorsement from INEOS Britannia’s Sir Ben Ainslie, who feels the sailing team – which is owned by the British billionaire – could not be in better hands.
“We couldn’t ask for better backers, supporters,” four-time Olympic champion Ainslie told BBC Sport. “They’re very hands on, Jim, John (Reece), Andy (Currie), the three main partners of INEOS. As CEO of the team I report to them on a monthly, bi-monthly basis, and they’re a big part of every key decision that we make.
“My experience of Jim is he is a very switched-on guy. He understands sport. Football, we all know, it’s pretty dynamic, the results coming and going and the potential for lots of personnel changes…
“My experience of Jim is if he picks a team, picks the right people, he will back them all the way and I would expect to see that if that is the case with Man United.”