Ineos, the company of British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe, has officially entered the race to take over Manchester United.
Ineos said the company had “officially committed to the process”.
Ratcliffe made an unsuccessful £4.25bn late bid to buy Chelsea last year after owner Roman Abramovich put the London club up for sale.
Born the son of a carpenter in Failsworth, Greater Manchester, Ratcliffe was a childhood United fan and one of the UK’s richest men.
He said he would have tried to buy the Old Trafford side following the failed acquisition of Chelsea but, after meeting brothers Joel and Avram Glazer, declared not wanting to sell.
However, since then the Glazers have changed their stance and he has now joined the bidding process.
The Ineos group owns Nice in France and the Swiss club Lausanne.
United has been owned by the Glazer family since 2005.
They are fourth in the Premier League after improving their form under manager Erik ten Hag, who took over in the summer.
They beat local rivals Manchester City 2-1 on Saturday and are nine points behind leaders Arsenal.
American investment company Raine Group, who handled the £4.25bn sale of Chelsea in May, exclusively advise United. A consortium led by Todd Boehly has paid £2.5bn for the club’s shares in Stamford Bridge, while saying it will provide £1.75bn to invest in the Premier League club.
There have been several protests against Glazers ownership in recent years, including one in May 2021 which resulted in the postponement of United’s home league game against Liverpool.
Thousands of fans marched through Old Trafford in protest ahead of the same game this season in August.
United were part of the failed European Super League project that quickly collapsed in April 2021. Manchester United co-chairman Joel Glazer later apologized for the trouble he caused.
He then attended fan forums following the fan unrest and pledged to make shares available to the club’s supporters.
Since then, a statement from United in November said the board would “consider all strategic alternatives, including new investment in the club, sale or other transactions involving the business”.
Simon Stone, BBC Sport football journalist
By confirming his interest in buying Manchester United, lifelong fan Ratcliffe has secured himself plenty of attention over the next month.
The Raine Group, which is managing the sales process, has pledged to reduce the number of bidders in February, with the aim of closing any deal in March, although these deadlines are not hard and fast.
BBC Sport understands that all options remain open, including the Glazer family retaining ownership but accepting some form of outside investment.
United sources played down the trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos this week of chief executive Richard Arnold and co-chairman Avie Glazer.
However, their presence is sure to create opportunities to discuss the club, or at the very least, the financing of the stadium redevelopment.
It will cost around £2billion, revamping Old Trafford to the required standard is unlikely to cost much less than building a brand new ground from scratch.
Clearly, this exorbitant cost, added to what the Glazers want for the club, means any buyer will have to invest well beyond the Boehly consortium’s £4.25 billion for Chelsea last year.
And that means it will either take an individual or a group with very deep pockets.
It is hoped that the “exclusivity” of owning one of the world’s biggest sports brands will generate a healthy market and it is presented as a unique opportunity.
After inspecting accounts at Chelsea early on and then leaving his real offer until after the bid deadline, Ratcliffe’s tactics raised some eyebrows last year.
This time he left earlier. It will be fascinating to see how the next few weeks unfold.