‘Why not?’ Saudi Arabia minister’s huge Man Utd ownership call and Newcastle position

Saudi Arabian sports minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki al-Faisal has ruled out a PIF-backed move for Manchester United. News has emerged this week that the unpopular Glazer family could be heading for the Old Trafford exit.

A leveraged buyout in 2005 – which saw the Red Devils lumbered with £550 million of debt – proved a disaster with supporters from day one. Vitriolic protests halted a clash against Liverpool last year and more anger was vented at the American family over the summer.

The Glazers released a statement earlier this week hinting at an end to their 17-year reign. It read: “The strength of Manchester United rests on the passion and loyalty of our global community of 1.1 billion fans and followers,” the Glazers said in the statement. “As we seek to continue building on the club’s history of success, the board has authorized a thorough evaluation of strategic alternatives.

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“We will evaluate all options to ensure that we best serve our fans and that Manchester United maximizes the significant growth opportunities available to the club today and in the future. Throughout this process, we will remain fully focused on serving the best interests of our fans , shareholders, and various stakeholders.”

Unsurprisingly, this announcement has led to several possible candidates emerging from the shadows. British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe – ranked as the richest man in Britain four years ago – has expressed early interest after failing to secure a deal for Chelsea in May.

However, comments from Prince Abdulaziz hinted at possible Middle Eastern investment. The Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) acquired an 80 percent stake in Newcastle United when Mike Ashley sold the club last October.

In the following year, the takeover transformed the club from relegation candidates to Champions League contenders. Any potential Saudi deal to buy Man United would signal alarm bells within the Newcastle fanbase.

But, according to the Premier League’s fit and proper persons test, PIF would be excluded from buying another top-flight club. Their stake in the Magpies would need to be reduced to 30 percent to avoid a conflict of interest.

Abdulaziz – who says there is no state involvement in PIF – has insisted Saudi “focus” remains committed to Newcastle but welcomed private investment at Old Trafford. Speaking at the World Cup, he said The Times : “PIF just invested in Newcastle and we are focusing on that. If there is a private investor that wants to come in, why not?

“I think it is a good opportunity and if the numbers add up and, if we can all benefit from that from a business perspective, why not? If there is an opportunity that benefits us I would encourage the private sector to do so.”

“Newcastle, as a club, are benefiting from this purchase and I think Manchester United or any other club would look at these opportunities. We don’t have a bid as we speak, or that we have announced. In the future, if possibilities do open and there is a good opportunity to host such an event, the benefits are big for Saudi and the region.”

The sports minister also explored the possibility of Saudi Arabia hosting the World Cup in the near future. A possible joint bid with Egypt and Greece has been mooted for 2030.

“We have seen that with Qatar hosting the World Cup in our region, so definitely the future is bright for Saudi,” Prince Abdulaziz added. “Hopefully, we can showcase that we can host such an event in the future. At the moment, we are focusing on bids for the 2027 Asia Cup and the 2026 Asia Women’s Cup.”

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