Swagger, soul… and patience: inside Ratcliffe’s plans for Manchester United

<span>Jim Ratcliffe has floated the idea of ​​using public money to help the club replace Old Trafford.</span><span>Photo: Ash Donelon/Manchester United/Getty Images</span>” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/E1Te84dQsPQO9Y5o37c8sQ–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/theguardian_763/484fe460d473cb36a3 1691ef5255cbc4″ data-src= “https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/E1Te84dQsPQO9Y5o37c8sQ–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/theguardian_763/484fe460d473cb36a31691 ef5255cbc4″/></div>
<p><figcaption class=Jim Ratcliffe has floated the idea of ​​using public money to help the club replace Old Trafford.Photo: Ash Donelon/Manchester United/Getty Images

Memories of Manchester United’s glory days still hang on the second floor of the Ineos offices in West London. You see it in Eric Cantona’s number 7 shirt, collar up, hanging in the main conference room. In the pristine match programs of those famous European trophy nights. And especially in the eyes of Jim Ratcliffe, as he promises to return the flair and soul to the club he has supported for 65 years.

“The playing style of Manchester United is attacking football, exciting football, bringing the youth through,” he says, speaking for the first time since acquiring a 27% stake in the club. “You want players who are involved. You want players who play 90 minutes or whatever the number is. At the end of the day, we’re in the entertainment business. You don’t want to see boring or characterless football.”

Related: Sir Jim Ratcliffe says Manchester United’s culture is not set up for success

At this point the 71-year-old billionaire, who now controls football operations at Old Trafford, takes a look at the Cantona shirt. “There has always been a bit of glamor associated with Manchester United but that has been a bit lacking in recent years,” he says. “George Best, Bobby Charlton, Eric de Koning. He was an outsider, the catalyst for change in the Sir Alex Ferguson era… and that set everything in motion.”

Shortly afterwards, Ratcliffe says he wants to “dethrone” Manchester City and Liverpool, channeling Ferguson’s famous words. And there are also warm words for the supporters, whom he calls the “guardians of the club”. However, it also quickly becomes clear that he not only wants to massage his supporters’ erogenous zones, but also show them a path back to greatness.

It starts, Ratcliffe believes, with setting up the right organizational structure. Then finding the right people for key roles – “the ones who are the best in the class, 10 out of 10” – especially when it comes to recruitment. And finally: creating a competitive but warm environment, in which people are encouraged to take risks.

“There are a lot of organizations in the world where you get shot if you make a mistake, so no one ever puts their head above the ground,” says Ratcliffe. “But at Ineos we don’t mind people making mistakes – but please don’t make it a second time.

“We made mistakes in football, so I’m very happy that we made them before we arrived at Manchester United. If we hadn’t done that, this would be a much tougher job for us. Because it’s huge and very visible.

“It will be intense at times, but it should also have warmth and friendliness and be a supportive structure, because the two things go well together,” he adds. “They probably haven’t had that environment in the last ten years. If we do those three things well, you have to trust that the results will follow.”

The second message Ratcliffe wants to convey is that success will not be instantaneous. Not when the club has not won the Premier League for eleven years and has fallen so far behind its rivals. “It’s not a light switch. I know the world likes instant gratification these days, but that’s not really the case in football. Look at Pep at Man City, it didn’t happen overnight.”

Ratcliffe is said not to be keen on player signings. But intriguingly he says it will all come down to the style of football the club wants to play – something that has not yet been decided. “But we are not going to swing from Mourinho style to Guardiola style. Otherwise you’ll be constantly changing everything. You change coaches, you have the wrong team, the wrong coach, we won’t do that. In modern football you have to decide what your path is and stick to it.”

Ratcliffe’s willingness to engage with fans and the media couldn’t be more different than the Glazers’. However, he insists he has a good relationship behind the scenes with Joel and Avram Glazer. “They are clearly very comfortable running the sporting side of the club. Obviously we will be on the ground, while the Glazer family is far away. I don’t think we are going to scrap the legal agreements from the bottom drawer.”

Ratcliffe insists he is not a “football professional” but it is clear he understands all the key issues including financial fair play. Unusually, he is also happy to answer any question, no matter how tricky: whether it is about the future of Mason Greenwood, which is yet to be determined, or his decision to appoint Ineos sporting director Sir Dave Brailsford to a key role at Old Trafford. .

Brailsford earned high praise after leading British Cycling and Team Sky to extraordinary success, but he was subsequently criticized by MPs after becoming embroiled in the jiffy bag scandal. However, according to Ratcliffe, Brailsford are among the brightest minds in sport, whether that be in cycling or football.

“I’m not interested in the past,” answers Ratcliffe, when asked about jiffygate. “I am interested in the future. I believe he is a very good man and very good at his job.”

Ratcliffe also dismisses suggestions that the failure at Southampton of Clive Woodward, England’s Rugby World Cup-winning coach, could be a cautionary tale. ‘Dave is not Clive Woodward. He’s a completely different animal. He is a very talented man and a very good guy too.”

There is also no more support when Ratcliffe’s decision to live tax-free in Monaco is brought up. “I paid my taxes in Britain. And when I reached retirement age, I went downstairs to enjoy the sun. I have no problem with that.”

It’s clear that Ratcliffe is a man who is willing to roll with the punches, but also roll up his sleeves. But he’s also smart enough to use his influence. When the conversation turns to whether Old Trafford could be renovated at a cost of around £1 billion, or whether the club could build a new stadium at a cost of £2 billion, he suggests that the government should would help finance this last option.

“People in the north pay their taxes like people in the south pay their taxes. But where is the national football stadium? It’s in the south. Where is the national rugby stadium? It’s in the south. Where is the National Stadium for Tennis? It’s in the south.

“So there is an argument that you could think about a more ambitious project in the north, which would be appropriate for England, for the Champions League final and act as a catalyst to regenerate the south of Manchester.”

Before he leaves, Ratcliffe has one final message for United supporters. “I have a very simple image of a football club,” he says. “It is a community asset. The club is owned by the fans, that’s what the club is for: for the fans. We are guardians or stewards for a temporary period.”

It is clear that the PR battle has already been won. But as Ratcliffe knows, achieving success on the pitch will be a very different challenge.

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