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Feb 11, 2011

Qataris close to buying United - report

Manchester United's owners, the Glazer family, are on the verge of selling the club to Qatar Holdings in a £1.6 billion deal, according to the Daily Express.

The newspaper reports that United's American owners are "only haggling over details" as they close in on a deal worth more than double the £790 million they paid for the club in 2005.

United are preparing to take on cash-rich neighbours Manchester City on Saturday, who are themselves owned by a wealthy Middle Eastern backer in Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, but it is believed the Manchester derby could be the last at Old Trafford under the Glazer regime.

The unpopular Americans have been at United for less than six years, and in that time have faced mass protests against their stewardship, with fans concerned that the debt-laden structure of their ownership puts the long-term future of the club at risk.

The Daily Express claims that the Glazers had been holding out for an offer of closer to £2 billion, but have accepted the £1.6 billion bid, up from an initial £1.5 billion, with a "well-placed" source quoted as saying: "The deal is pretty much done and they are only haggling over details".

Despite the claims that Qatar Holdings, the investment branch of the Qatari royal family led by the Gulf state's Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, is nearing a takeover deal, United have continued to deny that the Glazers have been entertaining any bids.

And on Thursday, United's director of communications Phil Townsend maintained that no offer has been made. "There has been no approach to buy Manchester United and no approach would be welcome", he told the Daily Express.

Qatar Holdings already boasts a portfolio of assets in England that includes London's American Embassy and upmarket department store Harrods, which it purchased from Fulham owner Mohamed Al Fayed last year.

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