4 people that have tried to buy Man Utd – from suspected spy to Colonel Gaddafi

A number of colourful characters have attempted to buy Manchester United down the years.

The club's controversial owners, the Glazer family, are currently looking to secure fresh investment in the Red Devils, with the possibility that they could sell United before the end of the current season. Britain's richest man, Sir Jim Ratcliffe, has already confirmed he is in the running to buy the club after news broke of the Glazer's openness to a sale.

He is not the first person to have attempted to buy the club, though, and here are four others who have tried and failed in the past.

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Robert Maxwell

Back in 1984, media proprietor, former Member of Parliament and suspected spy Robert Maxwell registered an interest in buying United.

Maxwell had a history in football, having been unsuccessful with plans to merge Reading and Oxford United in 1981 to create a new club called Thames Valley Royals. Luckily for United fans, Maxwell was unwilling to meet the then chairman Martin Edwards' asking price.

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Michael Knighton

United were almost sold for a second time during the 1980s after Michael Knighton came close to acquiring a majority stake in 1989.

Knighton even appeared on the pitch in full kit to do keepy-uppies before a win over Arsenal at Old Trafford. He had pledged to rebuild the Stretford End as part of his £20million takeover bid, only for his consortium to fall apart before the sale was completed.

Rupert Murdoch

A decade later, it was revealed to Edwards that then BSkyB owner Rupert Murdoch was interested in buying United.

Responding to shares in Liverpool, Arsenal and Celtic being snapped up by cable TV channels, Murdoch was keen to get in on the action and table a bid worth a total of £623.4million. Although that bid was accepted by Edwards, the move was blocked by the Department of Trade and Industry on the grounds that "the merger would adversely affect competition between broadcasters".

Colonel Gaddafi

Perhaps the most bizarre potential takeover of United came about in 2004, just a year before the Glazers bought the club.

Former Libyan dictator Colonel Gaddafi is said to have been "a whisker away" from buying John Magnier and JP McManus' 39.9% stake in the club.

Mehmet Dalman, who brokered the deal with the Glazers in 2005, told the Sunday Times in 2021: "People don’t realise how the deal was a whisker away from going to Libya. Gadaffi almost bought the club. That’s how close it got – literally, you’re talking about a few hours."


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