Sir Jim Ratcliffe tells Manchester United staff making money from minority investment not a focus
Sir Jim Ratcliffe has told Manchester United staff that he is not concerned about making money from his investment and instead solely wants to return the club to winning the biggest trophies.
United’s new co-owner said the football team had been failing for the past decade and the INEOS era is determined to bring success by creating an elite environment. He insisted the reasons for United’s substandard output compared to other big European teams with similar budgets, who compete for domestic titles and Champions Leagues every season, will have to be properly addressed or the status quo would remain.
Ratcliffe’s blunt appraisal of United’s sporting performance since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement cut in sharp contrast to the type of rhetoric previously used by members of the club’s hierarchy and was warmly welcomed by those listening. In September, former chief executive Richard Arnold told staff that United were “closing in and making progress” on Manchester City, as well as “chasing down” other rivals.
Ratcliffe, within a fortnight of finally striking his deal for 25 per cent of United, is taking a dramatically different approach. The British billionaire addressed an audience of employees in an Old Trafford lounge at an all-hands meeting on Thursday and drew applause for what sources, speaking to The Athletic on the condition of anonymity, describe as “straight-talking” and “honesty” about the issues that have dogged the club for years.
While Joel Glazer has not spoken directly to staff en masse since his family’s 2005 takeover, Ratcliffe’s presence in person, as well as the message he delivered, is said to have invigorated workers.
Ratcliffe acknowledged the club has shown commercial resilience in the challenging period of the pandemic, but he made clear that he would be measuring achievement by silverware rather than revenue and everybody should focus on that priority. Sources say this was a “liberating” decree.
Ratcliffe, who grew up as a United fan in Failsworth, a town outside Manchester, said he does not care about making a return on his $1.3billion investment. He also wants to make major improvements to Old Trafford and Carrington, stating his $300million additional funding, which will be converted into equity, is only the start of his support to that end.
Staff have described being impressed by the scale of ambition and appreciation of the current reality.
Ratcliffe was joined on stage by Sir Dave Brailsford, INEOS director of sport, who is conducting an audit of United’s structure and personnel. Brailsford did most of the talking, with an emphasis on more abstract terms about philosophy yet also leaving a good impression.
Brailsford began his work by visiting Carrington on New Year’s Eve, the day after United suffered a 14th defeat of the season to Nottingham Forest, and he has been speaking to staff and players across the spectrum in the days since.
The pair conducted a lengthy meeting with Erik ten Hag on Wednesday, which the United manager described as “very positive”. Ten Hag said: “Many hours we sit together, many issues we were on the same page. Was a very constructive meeting, we look forward to working with each other.
“They have good ideas, we have to see what we can integrate, in togetherness we can work, but after one day you can’t tell that.”
Several staff in attendance on Thursday, were similarly left feeling inspired but carrying caution about how Ratcliffe would put his plans into practice. It was felt that he and Brailsford are applying pressure to perform, but also encouraging people to be part of the change.
Ratcliffe, Brailsford, Jean-Claude Blanc, and Rob Nevin, the INEOS team on United, pledged to be present at the club, in what can be seen as another shift from the Glazer regime, with Joel operating out of Washington DC and Tampa, Florida.
Ratcliffe accepted he would have to wait until the Premier League ratifies his deal, but once the expected approval arrives in around six weeks the INEOS influence would begin in earnest. He said he and Brailsford could then get into more of the detail of their aims, with the current situation limiting some of his candour.
Brailsford, alongside Ratcliffe, also addressed a gathering of United’s football staff at Carrington on Wednesday and delivered a similar message about the need for improvements on the pitch. He is believed to be targeting an elite sporting director and an established recruitment specialist.
Explained: What INEOS’ investment means for Manchester United
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