Red Knights holding firm on United valuation

THE Red Knights have vowed not to overpay in their battle for control of Manchester United.

Having already turned down a bid of £1.5 billion (€1.74 billion) for the club, the Glazer camp continue to insist they have no interest in a sale.

Nevertheless, a bid is anticipated, and will even be welcomed by the Americans, if only to bring some clarity to their own position, which it has been stressed by sources close to the family has not changed from the moment they completed their controversial takeover five years ago.

While they remain hugely active in the sponsorship field and continue to run the club successfully on a day-to-day basis, it is felt far too much energy is being devoted to general financing of the ownership, which it is insisted the family are comfortable with. Even the controversial PIK loans, the interest for which is about to rise to 16.25% due to clauses inserted when they were originally taken out, are manageable, and, it has been repeated, are lodged against the Glazer family rather than United itself.

The impact of the £500m bond, which raised questions about the potential sale of Old Trafford and United’s Carrington training complex, has also been played down too, with the argument being put forward that greater financial flexibility was achieved through the hugely successful bond issue.

It continues to be pointed out that Alex Ferguson has complete freedom to act as he wishes in the transfer market, having already spent £20m on the arrivals of Chris Smalling, Mame Diouf and Javier Hernandez.

This has not cut much ice with the Red Knights, who feel the previous £1.5b bid is only being mentioned now in an attempt to drive up this price.

In a statement yesterday, the Red Knights highlighted a downward trend for football finance in general, which they believe makes United less valuable than it was.

Mindful of the need not to stretch themselves too far and the Glazers making an even greater profit at the expense of United’s long-term stability, the Red Knights confirmed they will not be held to ransom.

“The Red Knights are continuing to seek to assemble a consortium to acquire Manchester United,” said a statement released on behalf of the group this morning.

“Our primary goals remain to facilitate a return of ownership of the club to its supporters and the community; and to restore the financial health of the club. The response continues to be encouraging but the process to achieve it is understandably complex and is taking time.

“We have had productive conversations with potential investors in recent weeks which have reinforced our belief that it is wrong to offer above fair value, particularly given the urgent need for the club to reduce debt; and that fair value is likely to be reducing over time given the headwinds facing the game of football.

“Accordingly we will continue to build support in a measured way and will give a further update in due course.”

The Manchester United Supporters Trust has warned that if the Glazers turn the Red Knights offer down, they will immediately call for a boycott of season tickets and club merchandise in order to wreck the family’s financial blueprint.

An escalation in the hugely visual green and gold protests was evident yesterday when a smoke bomb was released outside the Megastore before a more vocal demonstration was held outside the directors’ entrance prior to the Premier League encounter with Stoke.

Whistles were then blown inside the stadium at the start and end of the second half, although the anger did not prevent United recording a 4-0 win which was not enough to keep hold of the title.

Meanwhile United and England striker Wayne Rooney has been named Barclays Player of the Season.

The award is further recognition for the 24-year-old’s outstanding campaign after scooping the PFA and Football Writers’ prizes last month.

Rooney’s latest award comes after it was revealed last week Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp had been made Barclays Manager of the Season.

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