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Ineos ‘optimistic’ over Man United purchase after increased contact with Raine Group

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Sir Jim Ratcliffe has had more extensive contact with Raine Group over the past two weeks than Qatar, creating a positivity within the INEOS bid that they can be the next owners of Manchester United, although it has not yet been communicated who the preferred bidder is.

That does leave the way open for a huge Qatar offer that many have long been waiting for, but it would have to be a significant increase on their third-round bid of under £5bn. They would also have to be quick, as it is now expected that an announcement on preferred bidder could come next week.

While the nature of this process ultimately comes down to the numbers, there was irritation on the selling side at some of the briefing around the third Sheikh Jassim-led bid, given it was considerably lower than had been anticipated. The Independent has also been told that the Glazers have been giving consideration to the fact any Qatar offer could take six to nine months longer, due to the likelihood that the assessment by the Owners and Directors test would be far longer.

The bid comes as the Premier League have sought to tighten regulations on state-linked owners, amid increasing pressure over the subject. The Glazers are also conscious of the fact that, if that happens, and the Qatar deal were to falter, Ratcliffe would be unlikely to come in on a point of principle. As the INEOS group have long pointed out, their offer can lead to a cleaner process.

Ratcliffe's group are “optimistic” that, if the takeover process continues smoothly, they would at least have an agreement to buy the club by the summer transfer window. That could leave Erik ten Hag frustrated as regards transfers for next season, given the club would be restricted in what it could do, but with the offset that the future would be much clearer thereafter.

Either way, the Glazers' bankers are currently willing to discuss final details with Ratcliffe. The only development that could currently change that is if Qatar come back in with a huge offer, and there is insistence from within the Gulf state they are still in the race. At the same time, discussions with Raine have been minimal, with one source even stating that it was as close as you can get to being “ghosted” in such processes.

The prospective takeover of United has been discussed at the top levels of the state, but a number of political issues have complicated the planned purchase, not least the willingness to not be seen to just pay whatever it takes. From the start, Qatar have been insistent they will only buy for the right price.

It remains to be seen whether that valuation changes as the possibility of failure looms.