A delegation of Manchester United top brass are set to visit Saudi Arabia as rumors of a take over by the Gulf state’s Crown Prince refuse to disappear.
Discontent surrounding United’s ownership by the American Glazer family has been apparent since their takeover in 2005, paving the way for reports of a possible takeover by 34-year-old Mohammed Bin Salman.
Although they have attended in the past, an appearance by United officials at the Future Investment Initiative organised by the Saudi Royal Family’s sovereign wealth fund later this month will do little to quash rumours of a purchase.
According to The Transfer Window podcast’s Duncan Castles, the Glazers themselves have attended in the past and United are set to be represented again at the conference in the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh in just over two days time.
Manchester United is valued at £2billion by the New York Stock Exchange and Mohammed Bin Salman could use part of the Saudi Royal Family’s £1 trillion wealth to become a major player on the football ownership scene.
He would join the likes of Manchester City’s Abu Dhabi owners and the Qatari royal family behind Paris Saint-Germain.
While all three of the nations may not be football hotbeds, the world of football ownership opens up colossal monetary opportunities and indeed that is what the FII focuses on.
On its website, it is described as a collection of individuals with the power to shape the future of global investment.’
Aside from the financial aspect, sport journalist Castles believes that club ownership offers a good publicity vehicle for the Crown Prince and his family.
Another subject of the ire of United fans has been the club’s Chief Executive, Ed Woodward.
But he recently insisted that the club are not for sale, despite a £3 billion acquisition by the Saudi prince being reported.
‘Based on what I see, they’re in it for the long-term,’ said Woodward.
‘With regards to offers or asking prices, my understanding is that there have been no discussions for a price for the club or anything like that. Every conversation we have is based on the long-term.’
One of the main criticisms of the Glazers is the debt saddled on United by their leveraged £780m buyout which currently stands at £511m.
But in an interview with fanzine United We Stand, Woodward played down that figure, saying: ‘The debt is a long-term, structured and similar to some other football clubs.
‘It’s a fixed amount for a fixed period of time which results in it being fairly cheap to service.
‘It’s just under two per cent our annual revenue each year, so it doesn’t really have any impact on us.’
On the pitch, United have also drawn criticism from their fans, slumping to 14th in the Premier League, having failed to win in their last four games.
They travel to Norwich tomorrow as they seek to put their season right.