Finance Insider Column: Six Man United takeover bids and Qataris' Jude Bellingham plot revealed

Dubious bidders, missed deadlines, misinformation, a state-backed PR campaign, and the possibility that, ultimately, it might all have been for nothing. Welcome to the Man United takeover saga, where chaos reigns supreme.

It has become increasingly clear in recent weeks that this is not a two-horse race. There are, it is understood, at least six runners and riders, although they aren’t all on the same course.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s Ineos group and a Qatari consortium fronted by Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al Thani want to complete a full takeover of the club and have naturally received the most media attention.

But just as credible are the offers from US-based investment firms looking to finance a deal on behalf of a third party. Four of these groups have made it to the next and final stage of the process.

Elliott Management is the only hedge fund to have publicly declared its interest, but it is now widely accepted within industry circles that Ares Management also wants to provide capital for a deal.

Sources have told Football Insider that two further stateside companies are still in the mix, with financing proposals that could see the Glazers remain at Old Trafford after all.

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The family have long been reluctant to use their own cash to fund the infrastructure upgrades so badly needed at both Carrington and Old Trafford. A private equity group or hedge fund could provide a resolution in that department.

The two Glazers who are most reticent about selling the club – Joel and Avram – could use external cash to either fund stadium and training ground upgrades or to buy out their four more ambivalent siblings and remain in control.

Those outcomes are at the more plausible end of the spectrum. The same cannot be said for Thomas Zilliacus’ bid, which was dismissed by those in the know almost as quickly as it appeared to have been thrown together.

In a bombastic press release peppered with spelling errors and swipes at rival bidders, the Finnish investor outlined plans to let supporters buy into the club in exchange for a vote on its day-to-day running.

His rationale – ‘it worked when I used to run HJK Helsinki, why can’t it work at the world’s biggest club?’ – has been panned by experts, as has his £3.2bn valuation of the club, which is only just over half of what the Glazers want.

So, that leaves six (serious) bidders. That is two short of the eight forecasted by several sources in advance of last Wednesday’s (22 March) 9.00pm deadline, which was missed and subsequently extended for Jassim and Ratcliffe, who have now submitted their final bids.

Besides interlopers like Zilliacus, however, it is understood that there are not expected to be any more surprise latecomers to the process.

Among bedrock Man United fans, Ratcliffe appears to be the favourite. Among those braying loudly on Twitter for blockbuster signings, it’s the Qataris.

Luckily for that latter group, sources have told Football Insider transfer correspondent Fraser Fletcher that Sheikh Jassim is a “huge fan” of Borussia Dortmund and England superstar Jude Bellingham, 19.

His acquisition would be one way of placating those United supporters with doubts about state involvement in the club – and it is no coincidence that the Qatari PR machine appears to have ramped up in recent weeks, sources claim.

In other news, Man United plot raid to sign “freak” who’s “phenomenal”.