football

Sir Jim Ratcliffe wants Manchester United to knock Manchester City and Liverpool off their perch

Sir Jim Ratcliffe has revealed plans to restore the greatness of Manchester United within three years and knock Manchester City and Liverpool "off their perch".

Speaking at his INEOS office, United's new part-owner set out a vision to refurbish Old Trafford for around £1bn or build a new stadium on the same site with the hope of securing public funds.

Ratcliffe also confirmed United's pursuit of sporting director Dan Ashworth, who has been placed on gardening leave by Newcastle, a decision he feels is "absurd".

The billionaire, who on Tuesday completed the purchase of a 27.7 per cent stake in the club through his INEOS conglomerate, said the women's team could be handed Old Trafford for their use if the men's team has a new stadium.

On more problematic matters, Ratcliffe said Manchester United will be deliberating over whether Mason Greenwood returns to the club at the end of the season.

The Crown Prosecution Service discontinued its case into Greenwood for attempted rape, controlling and coercive behaviour and assault against him in February but he remained suspended until the conclusion of an internal club investigation.

United decided Greenwood should recommence his career away from Old Trafford after a public outcry saw them U-turn on their plans to re-integrate him into the first team.

The 22-year-old, who is contracted until June 2025, signed for Spanish club Getafe on loan for the season on the final day of the summer transfer window.

On Premier League struggles

Ratcliffe said: "It's been a complete misery really in the last 11 years and it's just frustrating if you're a supporter during that period of time.

"That's football isn't it? It has its ups and its downs. I remember pre-Ferguson it wasn't great for quite some time - for a more extended period of time actually, for about 25 years."

"Eleven years is a long period of time, isn't it?

"Fundamentally you want to see your club being where it should be.

"It's one of the biggest clubs in the world. It should be playing the best football in the world, it hasn't been doing that for 10 or 11 years. So it's certainly related to the decision [to invest]."

Rivalling local 'enemies'

"They are one of the best teams on the planet," Ratcliffe said of Man City, champions of England for three years running.

"We have a lot to learn from the noisy neighbour, and our other neighbour [Liverpool]. They are the enemy at the end of the day and there's nothing I would like better than to knock both of them or one of them off their perch.

"But equally, we are the three great northern clubs and we're all quite close to each other," he added.

"They've been in a good place for a little while. Both of them. There are things to be learned from both of those clubs.

"They've got sensible organisations, great people in the organisations and a driven elite sort of environment that they work in. And as a consequence, the results have dropped out of the bottom. So I'm very respectful of them, but they're still the enemy."

Returning to glory

"It's not a light switch. It's not one of these things that changes overnight.

"We have to be careful we don't rush at it in a way, you don't want to run to the wrong solution rather than walk to the correct solution.

"We have two issues - one is the longer term, getting Manchester United to where, where we would like to get it but there's also the shorter term of getting the most out of the club as it stands today because we would like to see the Champions League for next season if we can.

"The key challenge here is that longer term. We need to do things well and properly, and thoroughly, and not rush at it, so it's not an overnight change, it's going to take two or three seasons. You have to ask the fans for some patience.

"I know the world these days likes instant gratification but that's not the case with football really.

"Look at Pep Guardiola at Man City, it didn't happen overnight, it takes time to build a squad..."

Assessment of Ten Hag

"I'm not going to comment on Erik ten Hag because I think it would be inappropriate to do that," said Ratcliffe.

"But if you look at the 11 years that have gone since David Gill and Sir Alex have stepped down, there have been a whole series of coaches, some of which were very good. And none of them were successful, or survived for very long. And you can't blame all the coaches.

"The only conclusion you can draw is that the environment in which they were working, didn't work. And Erik's been in that environment. I'm talking about the organisation, the people in the structure, and the atmosphere in the club.

"We have to do that bit. So I'm not really focused on the coach. I'm focused on getting that bit right. And it's not for me to judge that anyway. I'm not a football professional."

Signings 'top of the list'

Ratcliffe said: "I think recruitment in the modern game is critical. Manchester United have clearly spent a lot of money but they haven't done as well as some other clubs.

"So when I was talking about being best in class in all aspects of football, recruitment is clearly top of the list. I'm more thinking about getting recruitment in a good place in the future.

"There's not much I can do about what's happened in the past, so there's no point they never want me going there really.

"So our thinking is all about how we become first in class in recruitment going forward. Which means you need the right people."

Ashworth pursuit and Newcastle's asking price

"Dan Ashworth is clearly one of top sporting directors in the world. I have no doubt he is a very capable person. He is interested in Manchester United because it's the biggest challenge at the biggest club in the world.

"I understand why Newcastle would be disappointed but then you can't criticise Dan because it's a transient industry. You can understand why Dan would be interested because it's the ultimate challenge. We'll have to see how it unfolds."

"A bit silly, personally," he said on reports of Newcastle wanting £20m from United to take Ashworth straight away.

"I won;t get dragged into that. What I do think is completely absurd is suggesting a man who is really good at his job sits in his garden for one and a half years.

"We had a very grown-up conversation with City about Omar Berrada. When things got done we sorted it out very amicably. They could see why he wanted to take that challenge.

"You look at Pep Guardiola and when he's done with one of his footballers he doesn't want them to sit in the garden for one and a half years. He doesn't do that. That's not the way the UK works or the law works."

Mason Greenwood's future

"We will make a decision," said Ratcliffe.

"All I can do is talk about the principle of how we will approach decisions like that. Is he the right type of footballer? Is he a good person or not?

"It's quite clear we have to make a decision," he added. "There is no decision that's been made. He's on loan, obviously, but he's not the only one.

"We've got one or two footballers that we have to deal with and we have to make a decision on, so we will do that.

"The process will be: understand the facts, not the hype, and then try and come to a fair decision on the basis of values - which is basically is he a good guy or not.

"Could he play sincerely for Manchester United well, and would we be comfortable with it and the fans comfortable with it?"

Redeveloping Old Trafford

"What our plan is, is that we are going to work on the refurb, which is the obvious one and the one we know that we can afford," said Ratcliffe.

"But we'll put together a small task force which probably we can talk about next week, at arm's length of people who have useful opinions and explore whether a bigger project makes sense."

Sir Jim added: "What we've seen of the stadium so far, there is a really good case to refurbish Old Trafford, probably about £1bn in cost, or something like that.

"You finish up with a great stadium, it's probably an 80 or 90,000-seater. But it's not perfect because you're modifying a stadium that is slap bang up against a railway line and all that type of stuff, so it's not an ideal world.

"But you finish up with a very good answer. Manchester United needs a stadium befitting one of the biggest clubs in the world and at the moment, it's not there.

Relationship with the Glazers

Ratcliffe added: "We have a really good relationship with Joel and Avram, who are the only two of the siblings that we've got to know and have met, actually.

"And there's a fair amount of trust, I think, between those two parties. And they obviously are very comfortable with us running the sports side of the club.

"This is going to be a very sports-led club, it's all going to be about performance on the pitch.

"I'm still a significant shareholder, even in respect of all the other things in the club. We're obviously going to be on the ground, whereas the Glazer family are a fair way away.

"So I don't see an issue in us being able to influence the club in all the right ways going forward, to be honest."

He continued: "I don't think we're going to be taking the legal agreements out of the bottom drawer.

"I just hope they gather dust and we never see them. Which it should be. It should be on the basis of a relationship.

"As long as we're doing the right things, then I'm certain that relationship is going to go very well."

'False dawns' and the sale process

Ratcliffe continued: "I remember at the Monaco Grand Prix, which was in May, we opened a bottle of very expensive champagne and all celebrated.

"That was in May… but that was a false dawn and we went through several more false dawns after that.

"We had a few surprises on the way. Not at the Glazers' making. We just kept bumping into problems, particularly with the non-executives on the board."

An 'enormous' challenge

"[It's] certainly the biggest challenge in sport that we've undertaken. It's enormous - and the club is enormous.

"The tentacles reach around the world, don't they? Everywhere I go in the world it's Manchester United. It affects an awful lot of people on the planet and getting it right is not easy.

"We've got to get so many aspects of that club right. And the right people doing the right thing at the right time and doing it well.

"It's a very complex problem, really, football. That's surprising considering it's just putting 11 players on a football field, and they run around. But it's very complex getting there.

Money not a motivation

Ratcliffe said: "To be honest, I don't think I'll ever lose money.

"For me, it's not about a financial investment. The objective was to get involved and being influential in the future of Manchester United Football Club.

"I don't believe I'll ever lose money in it and I'm not interested. I've just put that aside. It'll sit there forever but I don't see that the value is going to devalue. I don't believe that.

"In that sense, I don't think I've been financially stupid, but it's not my motivation in life at all."

Growing the club's revenue

"We're really, really clear about that - It's football-led. So if we're successful on the pitch, then everything else will follow," said Ratcliffe.

"In monitoring clubs, Manchester United a bit, I think, in the last 10 years or so, that if you're really good in commercial and you make lots of money, then you'll be successful in football because you've got lots of money to spend.

"But I think, that's flawed because it only starts for a certain while and you start to degrade the brand if you're not careful.

"But we're really clear that football will drive the club. If we're really successful at football, then commercial will follow. And we'll make more money."

Challenging clubs with nation-state funding

"The nation state bit helps to a degree, but FFP (Financial Fair Play rules) limits the degree by a considerable margin, doesn't it?

"So ultimately, it becomes about how successful the club is because that dictates your FFP.

"With FPP you have to operate the club within its own means. So clearly that means that if you've got a bigger club it ought to be more successful than a smaller club, sort of, by definition, because you've got more means they can spend more money and recruitment.

"FFP has become a new aspect of running the football club, and it's clearly a really critical part of running a football club.

"And you have to think about how you can manage FFP to the benefit of the club.

"There are different ways in which you can do that. But ultimately FFP says you have to operate the club within its own means. And, effectively, it takes into account your prior expenditure, and the club's spent quite heavily in the last couple of seasons.

"So that does impact FFP going forward, because they've used quite a large part of their allowance if you like. So we need to be quite clear in the summer as to what the extent of… I don't know the full answer to that question at the moment.

"It's obviously related to sales as well as purchases, and so we need to get our heads around that well before the summer window, so we understand the number but there's no question that history will impact this summer window."

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