Jim Ratcliffe is the answer to the prayers of many Manchester United supporters.
He’s incredibly rich, likes sport, and aside from environmental concerns regarding the work his Ineos group undertakes, his reputation isn’t so bad as far as billionaires go.
On top of that, he’s a fan of the Old Trafford club. A rescuer from the Glazers couldn’t be much more more attractive.
There is, of course, a problem. He doesn’t seem interested.
Ratcliffe’s sport group have been interested in Chelsea previously, and walked away from that idea to eventually end up the owners of Ligue 1 side Nice. L’Equipe have spoken to the man in charge, and whilst they didn’t ask directly about buying Manchester United, the club was touched upon.
The French newspaper put it to Ratcliffe that he has the best cycling team in the world, and that Nice are a long way from being on such a level. They then asked the differences between the projects, and that’s where United came up.
“It’s different but there are economic parameters,” explained Ratcliffe. “We have the best cycling team on a reasonable budget, like OGC Nice and the America’s Cup challenge (also sponsored by Ineos). We could buy a big club in England but the budget would be multiplied by twenty.
“Sport is not just about signing cheques, as Manchester United realises. You can buy what you want and get a disaster. Succeeding in football is much more complex than people can believe. Here, we have a really thoughtful challenge. And if we do it well, it may take a few years, but we can have the Champions League regularly in Nice.”
Having been thrown the Manchester United bone, L’Equipe then asked if the billionaire’s dream is for Nice to face the English club in Europe’s elite competition.
“No, the dream is to beat Manchester… Oh I’d love that. (Laughs.) Playing the Champions League would be great for Nice and we can do it intelligently. It’s not about throwing money out the window. Buying €100m players, it is not very satisfactory.”
When asked about Nice manager Patrick Vieira, Ratcliffe took another opportunity to speak about the club he supported as a child.
“I like Patrick because he is interested in young people and he is a very good young coach. I met him twice. Before, I hated him! At Arsenal, he had his duels against Manchester United with Roy Keane… He was really a b******! (laughs) And now, I have to be nice to him! I was born in Manchester, it’s my team. I was at the Champions League final in 1999, when we won at the last minute against Bayern Munich. This is my most extraordinary football memory, we should never have won before these three crazy minutes.”
L’Equipe then took the chance to ask Ratcliffe if he’s a fan of Eric Cantona, and, of course, he is.
“I have never met Eric but he’s one of my idols. He played one season in Leeds and they won the championship for the first time in eighteen years. After the season, Alex Ferguson called Leeds to learn about one of their players and the manager told him he had this crazy Frenchman. Manchester United had not won the championship since Matt Busby, Cantona arrived and United won everything. Everything is gone from a Frenchman.”
The perfect takeover candidate? Perhaps, but right now it doesn’t look likely.