British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe will bid for Manchester United, the Daily Telegraph reported on Wednesday, adding that his renewed interest in buying the club is said to be serious. The Premier League club’s US owners are looking at options for the 20-time English champions, including new investment or a potential sale, 17 years after the Glazer family bought the club. In August, Ratcliffe, a long-time fan of the club, had expressed interest in buying United, Reuters reported. Chemical firm Ineos, where Ratcliffe is chairman, declined to comment on Wednesday. Former England captain David Beckham, who spent over a decade at United, is open to holding talks with potential bidders for the club, Financial Times reported, citing people with knowledge of the matter. Prospective buyers could seek to enlist Beckham to boost their chances of taking over the club. United could be sold for close to £7 billion (US$8.44 billion), FT said, citing a banker close to the process who added a bidding war could send it higher. Manchester United shares were up nearly 19 per cent in New York trading, building on the more than a 14 per cent rise following reports of the sales process on Tuesday afternoon. The company was worth US$2.5 billion at the close of US trading on Tuesday. But at US$17.76, the shares are not much higher than their 2012 IPO price of US$14. The club’s capitalisation as a public company peaked at US$4.3 billion in 2018. Manchester United owners consider sale as Ronaldo exits A leading fan group said on Wednesday the club need new owners and fresh investment to halt years of decline and fans should be given a real say in how the club is run in future. “Our club needs new investment more than ever. That requires new ownership,” read a statement from the Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST), responding to news that some said would feel like winning a title if the owners left. “Any new ownership structure must embed supporters, including a degree of fan share ownership, in their operating model.” The news of a potential sale, which broke on Tuesday, triggered jubilation and some trepidation in online chat rooms and fan forums at what the future might hold. “I hope this isn’t an out of the frying pan and into the fire situation,” declared one fan on the r/reddevils forum on reddit. Supporters have sought a change of ownership for more than a decade and the clamour has grown louder with a lack of success on the field. Thousands protested outside Old Trafford in April, lighting flares and singing songs demanding the Glazers “get out of the club”. United have won nothing since they lifted the Europa League and League Cup trophies in 2017 and their world-renowned Old Trafford home and training facilities are also in need of an update. “The Glazers, they don’t care about the club or professional sport. Manchester [United] is a marketing club,” Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo said this month in an explosive interview that led to his departure. Duncan Drasdo, the MUST chief executive, told Sky Sports “the real way to unlock the value of Manchester United is to work in partnership with the fans, not exploit them as customers. We want the opportunity to be partners with new investors.” Drasdo said fans were not looking at who might be the richest bidders, with plenty of speculation focusing on potential Middle Eastern investors as well as Ratcliffe. “We want people who want to own the club and have the same ideals and goals as fans rather than looking to extract value for themselves,” he added. Ratcliffe’s name was widely mentioned among fans as someone many would welcome, although there were fears he might be priced out with some estimates putting the club’s worth at more than US$4.5 billion. “Sir Jim Ratcliffe is our saviour lads,” said fan @CantonasCollar on Twitter, although others sounded a note of caution. “Until we know who’s buying, there cannot be any celebration,” wrote a supporter on TheRepublikOfMancunia.org forum.