Plans by the Glazer family to sell Manchester United is gathering momentum.
According to report, a team of investment bankers were asked to advise on the process on Tuesday, with the owners set to officially announce their intention of examining potential external investment.
This is likely to come in the form of a full or partial sale, or a strategic partnership with third parties, in what would be an auction of one of the world’s biggest football clubs.
The Glazers’ 17-year rule over United has been marred in rising debts and vigorous fan protest, with little improvement on the pitch to go with it.
United remain without a Premier League title since Sir Alex Ferguson retired back in 2013, and the owners have faced serious backlash for their insufficient supporter-ownership scheme, with the majority of voting rights retained in their dual-class share structure.
Any potential sale would be a seminal moment for much of the club’s fanbase, in what would be a second top-flight ownership change in quick succession after Roman Abramovich’s forced £2.5bn sale of Chelsea earlier this year.
Fenway Sports Group, who own Liverpool, are also said to be exploring external investment opportunities currently.
Various individuals and groups have been linked with purchasing the club in the past. Sir Jim Ratcliffe and Michael Knighton would be among those interested should a chance to invest be presented.
Industry insiders were on Tuesday night speculating that the figures on offer to the Premier League’s foreign owners combined with the grim economic forecast in the UK is tempting them to sell.
There is also the issue of the failed European Super League which scuppered the hopes of English football’s biggest clubs to set up a more lucrative competition which would also have been a closed shop without the threat of relegation. It is perhaps no surprise that FSG and the Glazers are looking to cash in 13 months after it collapsed.
The news will be widely welcomed by the vast majority of the club’s fans and the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust who have campaigned relentlessly to drive the Glazers out of Old Trafford.
The family did put a minority stake in the club up for sale a decade ago but made sure they kept overall control through a dual-class share structure which endured they retained the majority of the voting rights.
Despite their unpopularity over the buyout in 2005, the Glazers enjoyed an early period of success at United with Sir Alex Ferguson as manager.
But since Ferguson and chief executive David Gill retired in 2013, the club have been without a Premier League title in almost a decade and have won just a handful of trophies under a succession of different managers.