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Meet the man who could have bought Man Utd for just £10million in 1989, and missed out on a business now worth £3billion


TODAY, Manchester United is a business worth round £3billion.

They are one among the world’s Most worthy sports groups, thanks in half to a dominance of the British sport in the Nineteen Nineties, 2000s, and 2010s, in addition to intelligent advertising and marketing which means their title is recognised round the globe.

Businessman Michael Knighton virtually bought Man Utd for £10million in 1989Credit: PA
Knighton's takeover bid was accepted before he was forced to withdraw his offer
Knighton’s takeover bid was accepted earlier than he was compelled to withdraw his provideCredit: Getty

But in 1989, a then much-maligned membership and starved of success, the Red Devils had been on the verge of being taken over for just £10million.

Property developer Michael Knighton, now 69, had introduced the takeover a day earlier than their opening sport of the season at Old Trafford in opposition to Arsenal.

Then, on the Saturday, he stood in entrance of the Stretford End and took in the cheers from some 48,000 followers earlier than the sport, showing in an official workforce coaching equipment and expertly juggling a soccer on the pitch.

His plans had been to show Manchester United into a £150million business. He noticed that with TV cash on the horizon from an anticipated Sky TV bid, it could be a profitable money-spinner.

However, behind-the-scenes a secret plot schemed by the United hierarchy was determined to dissuade Knighton from finishing a deal.

Some had been mentioned to be miffed by his flamboyant look on the sacred Theatre of Dreams turf earlier than the opening Division One sport of the 1989-90 season.

While, non-public paperwork outlining a blueprint for his plans appeared at a well-known newspaper mogul’s dwelling and ended up placing stress on Knighton to withdraw his bid, thus ending his dream.


A former college instructor, Knighton made his fortune constructing a property portfolio in the Eighties.

And in Manchester United he fairly rightly noticed their potential as an funding, and understood that ex-chief govt Martin Edwards would entertain a proposal.

Knighton laps up the applause at Old Trafford before the opening game of the 1989-90 season
Knighton laps up the applause at Old Trafford earlier than the opening sport of the 1989-90 seasonCredit: Times Newspapers Ltd
Property developer Knighton shows off his ball skills in a full United training kit ahead of the Division One opener against Arsenal
Property developer Knighton exhibits off his ball abilities in a full United coaching equipment forward of the Division One opener in opposition to ArsenalCredit: Hulton Archive – Getty
At Derby in the second game of the campaign, Knighton shakes hands with the fans in the stands
At Derby in the second sport of the marketing campaign, Knighton shakes arms with the followers in the standsCredit: Rex

“The raison d’etre was very simple,” Knighton revealed.

“There was a lot of resentment against the board. Edwards was incredibly unpopular and desperate to exit. The business was losing money and home gates had fallen to as low as 18-20,000.”

United’s huge fanbase was key to Knighton’s concept. It’s what inspired him to stroll onto the pitch and orchestrate the crowd like a grasp politician would his voters.

“I wanted to show the fans I was a football man first and a businessman second,” he mentioned.

“I wished to bridge the hole between the boardroom and the terraces. Yes, it was novel. It was unorthodox. I knew it will entice curiosity and criticism. But I did not care. I wanted the followers on my facet greater than I wanted Bobby Charlton or Alex Ferguson, whose job was on the line at the moment.

“I knew there was a large captive market. If you will exploit that market, not in a pejorative sense, to promote them all the pieces in order to generate the income to purchase any participant in the world, you want them on your facet.

“Look at what is happening now with the current owners and how the sponsors are being lobbied and some fans are not buying memorabilia and shirts.

“Of course I liked it. Who would not? Despite the way it all turned out, I do not remorse going on that pitch and if I had £5bn to purchase Manchester United right this moment, I might do precisely the identical once more. I used to be fulfilling each schoolboy dream in the world.

“If you look at the pictures of that day and the smiles on the faces of the fans in the stadium, it worked.”


Knighton’s entertaining flip at Old Trafford, that will’ve given Simply Red singer, United fan and 80s icon Mick Hucknall a run for his cash even at the moment, riled the stiff board.

Former United chief executive Martin Edwards was said to have regretted his decision to sell after Knighton's extravagant appearance
Former United chief govt Martin Edwards was mentioned to have regretted his choice to promote after Knighton’s extravagant lookCredit: News Group Newspapers Ltd
Behind the scenes, the United hierarchy were looking for a way out of the Knighton deal
Behind the scenes, the United hierarchy had been wanting for a manner out of the Knighton dealCredit: News Group Newspapers Ltd

“Ridiculous”, one senior official known as it – and it was at this level it was mentioned that Edwards started to remorse his choice to promote to the extravagant businessman.

Knighton’s manner wasn’t the United manner, regardless of Edwards revealing in his programme notes earlier than a sport in opposition to Norwich he wished to promote the membership and Knighton’s cash could be put to make use of in creating the floor.

“It is not a secret that we have wished to develop the Stretford End for a number of years now,” Edwards wrote.

“The price range of £7.5m made me realise the graduation of the work is mild years away.

“What Mr Knighton’s offer has brought us is the opportunity to develop the stadium as well as the playing staff and this offer was impossible to refuse.”

But privately Edwards was wanting for a manner out.


With each TV look Knighton made speaking about shopping for United, he irked senior figures extra.

Bizarrely, a doc generally known as his ‘blueprint’ to assist United develop into a £150million operation was mysteriously left at the home of newspaper proprietor Eddy Shah, who was a pal of the United hierarchy.

Shah instantly received in contact and senior board members rushed to his Macclesfield dwelling.

A secret dossier outlining Knighton's plans fell into the hands of newspaper mogul Eddy Shah
A secret file outlining Knighton’s plans fell into the arms of newspaper mogul Eddy ShahCredit: Getty
Knighton with United legend Sir Alex Ferguson
Knighton with United legend Sir Alex FergusonCredit: Getty

Even United legend Bobby Charlton arrived at the scene, and was mentioned to have had a calming affect on Shah’s aggressive canines purely by his presence.

The file was presupposed to be non-public. The truth it had received out put Knighton below stress to withdraw his bid.

Knighton was provided a place on the board, if he opted out of a deal. He accepted.

For the subsequent three years, he was a quiet affect in the boardroom, till 1992 when he bought Carlisle, earlier than lastly strolling away from soccer 10 years later.

After that interval, United went on to dominate the home sport and including European trophies to their trophy cupboard.

“It is extraordinary how Martin Edwards has claimed credit for what happened in the following decade after my involvement. Unbelievable,” Knighton mentioned..

“I saved my mouth shut and my head down as a result of my status had been hammered and it’s just about inconceivable to alter a public picture.

After three years on the board at Old Trafford, Knighton left to become Carlisle chairman
After three years on the board at Old Trafford, Knighton left to develop into Carlisle chairmanCredit: Rex
Now 69, Knighton isn't involved in football anymore
Now 69, Knighton is not concerned in soccer anymoreCredit: The Sun

“But Martin and the other people on the board decided to hide behind the fiasco Michael Knighton caused and claim the credit themselves.

“If they could really see what was going to happen, why did they agree to sell the club for £10m?”

Now, we’ll by no means know.

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