Sheikh Jassim decides Manchester United isn't worth it
Plus: Pro-Palestinian demonstrations on St Peter’s Square
Dear readers — welcome to this week’s briefing, bringing you the latest on the bidding war over Manchester United, how the Israel-Gaza conflict is affecting people living in Greater Manchester, and the new data that’s left people asking why almost half of the region’s taxis are registered nearly 80 miles away. All that, plus our recommended reads and stuff to do this week, is below.
Over the weekend, Jack visited Deansgate Square, the skyscraper cluster that is home to £2.5 million penthouses, and spoke to Peter Duku, its garbage man. He also spoke to residents about what living in Manchester’s premier high rises is like. “What is associated with Deansgate Square,” one resident said. “Is, well, pretty people.” Read that here.
It’s 3pm at Bolton bus station and I’m watching a man stare at his Bee Network app — it says his bus is due to arrive, but there’s an empty stand where it should be. Next to him, a woman in a high-vis jacket looks tired. “Are you a Bee Network driver?” I ask her. “Unfortunately,” she says, rolling her eyes.
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From today’s sponsor: Now home to Manchester Cathedral and Chetham's Library, the spot where the River Irk and the River Irwell meet was the centre of medieval Manchester. This stunning tile is available from The Sculpts, a local company founded by illustrator and architect Richard Bennett in 2020, which designs and makes beautiful homewares and textiles celebrating Manchester's history, heritage and culture. Check out the full range of tiles and artwork.
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🌦️ This week’s weather
Our local weatherman Martin Miles says we’ll experience some lovely mild, autumnal temperatures this week, but hang on to your umbrellas — it’s going to be rainy.
Tuesday ⛅️ Dry and breezy with hazy sunshine. Milder than of late. Max 13C.
Wednesday 🌧️ Windy with bright spells and showers giving way to heavy rain during the afternoon. Max 14C.
Thursday 🌦️ Very mild with rain followed by sunshine and showers. Breezy. Max 16C.
Friday 🌧️ Mild and windy with outbreaks of light to moderate rain. Max 14C.
Weekend 🌦️ Windy and unsettled as low pressure dominates. Feeling chilly as well, with temperatures a few degrees below the seasonal average.
You can find the latest forecast at Manchester Weather on Facebook — daily forecasts are published at 6.15am.
The big story: Sheikh Jassim decides Manchester United isn’t worth it
Top line: Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani, a Qatari official and banker who has been locked in a bidding war to buy Manchester United, has withdrawn his offer. It leaves an open goal — pardon the pun — for Failsworth-born Jim Ratcliffe, the petrochemicals magnate Jassim was competing against.
Context: United’s current owners, the Glazer family, announced their intentions to sell the club last November. Jassim and Ratcliffe have been the only two serious bidders, making their first offers in February.
Since then, the process has been in a cloud of rumour, with a lack of transparency from the Glazer family coming under criticism from fans desperate to see the back of the Glazers as well as those supporters keen for an end to the uncertainty surrounding the club’s ownership. Deadlines were extended and terms changed. From the start, Ratcliffe only wanted part of the club, with Jassim wanting to buy it outright.
What Jassim was offering: The Qatari bid was apparently a world record for a sports club, coming in at over £5 billion for a club currently valued at half of that. The offer still didn’t meet the Glazers’ asking price, which has been described as “fanciful and outlandish” by those close to the deal. Jassim’s was a cash offer that promised further funds to clear the club's debt and refurbish Old Trafford.
A bitter blow: United being without an outright buyer “will come as a bitter blow to the large constituency of United supporters who remain deeply unhappy with the Glazers’ ownership,” reports the Observer.
Insight: The MEN reports the Glazers are worried that, with the increased investment pouring into English football from the likes of the Saudis, United could be worth £10 billion in the coming years. They don’t want to cash out too soon and miss that.
Speaking of the gulf state money coming into the Premier League, it was a bone of contention amongst fans whether to sell to Jassim rather than local businessman Ratcliffe. You can read more about that here: A morality play at the theatre of dreams.
What Ratcliffe is offering: Now the only bidder, Ratcliffe’s chances of taking a stake in United are greatly improved. It’s been reported that Ratcliffe wants 25% of United’s non-voting shares and the equivalent amount of voting shares from the Glazer family. United’s board are set to vote on his reported £1.3 billion bid in the coming days.
In return, Ratcliffe would get oversight of the club’s operations and what players it buys — according to the Wall Street Journal — leaving the commercial side of the business to the Glazers. This arrangement will still leave many fans dissatisfied.
Bottom line: Next month will be a year since the Glazer family announced they were considering selling United. This latest development will leave fans feeling that everything is still up in the air, with the most likely outcome being the Glazers remaining in charge. “We have always been neutral between Jassim and Ratcliffe,” Chris Rumfitt, head of Manchester United Supporters Trust, told Fortune. “But if the Ratcliffe deal maintained the Glazers’ ultimately in charge I think that is something fans would be very hostile to.”
On this day - 1968
Old Trafford, 55 years ago today: George Best chases down the ball for Manchester United in a second leg match against Estudiantes de La Plata, as part of the Intercontinental Cup Tournament. It ended 1-1, with Estudiantes winning on aggregate.
Your Mill briefing
Israel-Gaza conflict: Over the weekend, large-scale demonstrations were held across the country by protesters calling for a free Palestine, including in Manchester, where a march from Platt Fields Park ended in St Peter’s Square. GMP said there were no arrests. Antisemitic incidents are increasing according to Bury Council leader Eamonn O’Brien, whose borough has the fourth largest Jewish population in the UK, and more police have been deployed across Greater Manchester to deal with hate crime. "We know there are heightened concerns in our Jewish community,” said Andy Burnham. “And we have spoken to the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police who has assured us that there will continue to be an increased police presence in all areas of our city-region with Jewish community organisations.”
Dana Abuqamar, a student in Manchester and president of student group Manchester Friends of Palestine, told the BBC that 15 of her relatives were killed in an Israeli attack on Gaza. She said a missile hit their residential block. Abuqamar was criticised after an interview she gave to Sky News in which she said "we are full of pride, we are really, really full of joy at what has happened," after the terrorist group Hamas attacked communities near the Gaza Strip and killed over 1,000 people, including civilians. She has said she was misrepresented, later telling BBC North West Tonight: "The death of any innocent civilian should not be condoned ever and we don't condone it at all."
New data has shown that a third of Greater Manchester’s taxis are registered in Wolverhampton. This is because it’s cheaper to licence a taxi there, and its licensing process is more lax. "The checks they do aren't as stringent and it is not right. They are undermining public safety in Greater Manchester," said Andy Burnham. Wolverhampton Council said their vetting process is "strict and rigorous". Go deeper: Our sister paper in Liverpool, The Post, reported on this very phenomenon on Merseyside back in June. Post members can read: ‘Covert operations, untraceable cabs and legal loopholes: Liverpool’s broken taxi system’.
More uncertainty for the English National Opera after its music director Martyn Brabbins resigned yesterday after 19 orchestral positions were axed because of funding cuts. “Although making cuts has been necessitated by Arts Council England’s interference in the company’s future,” Brabbins said, “the proposed changes would drive a coach and horses through the artistic integrity of the whole of ENO.” The “interference” Brabbins is referring to is the decision to only grant the ENO funding should it move out of London, possibly to Manchester.
Home of the week
This three bedroom cottage is tucked away in a small hamlet near Ashton-under-Lyne and has far-reaching views of the River Medlock and the countryside. It’s on the market for £280,000.
Our favourite reads
After the Party: A Walking Tour of Manchester with Andy Spinoza — LA Review of Books
How does London view Manchester? How about the west coast of America? In this LA Review of Books essay about Andy Spinoza’s Manchester Unspun, the writer Chandler Dandridge takes a walking tour through Manchester and finds a city “transformed from post-industrial ruin to an injection site for international capital from every corner of the earth”, where students are a “dirty word in working-class Mancunia” and cranes dominate the skyline.
The student hid his Star of David. He didn’t want to be a target — The Sunday Times
Jonah Jayson, a 21-year-old student at Manchester Metropolitan University, admits that he’s been tucking his Magen David necklace, the Star of David, under his shirt during the last week. Of course, “not all Jews care deeply about Israel or support its government”, but every Jew has been affected by the mass murder of Israeli citizens by Hamas, with reports of antisemitic incidents quadrupling in the last week. “I’m on edge constantly,” he said. “I just sit in lectures thinking about it all the time. Right now, it’s all there is.”
Soccer Diplomacy Comes to the Middle East — The Atlantic
And finally, not quite a Manchester story, but this is a fascinating, deeply-reported long read about how an old adversary is responding to the Saudi Arabian takeover of football. During the summer, the head of Iran’s football federation and his Saudi counterpart agreed that the two countries could play on each other’s territory, signalling a new era of “soccer diplomacy”. In clothing shops in Tehran, there are football jerseys bearing Ronaldo’s name but not coloured white like his former club, Real Madrid, nor red like Manchester United: “but rather the yellow and blue of Al-Nassr Football Club, from Riyadh. Al-Nassr and Ronaldo played their first game on Iranian soil on September 19 against another of Asia’s most decorated teams: the Iranian team Persepolis, whose name translates to ‘the city of Persians.’ So long, Europe.”
Our to do list
📚 Karl Ove Knausgaard, author of My Struggle, which has been dubbed “the greatest literary invention of the 21st century”, will be speaking at Manchester Central Library from 7.30pm as part of Manchester Literature Festival. Tickets are £12.
🕶️ A new hip-hop dance performance comes to Aviva Studios this autumn. Directed by Danny Boyle, Free Your Mind is inspired by The Matrix films and combines hip-hop dance, sculpture and visual installations. It’s showing at Factory International for three more weeks, get tickets here.
🎨 Manchester Art Gallery’s historic paintings and contemporary sculptures might seem like they share very little in common, but this free walking tour through the gallery intends to prove otherwise, asking how these vastly different pieces relate to each other. Starts 2pm. Reserve a spot here.
🍺 Live music, DJs and free beer tastings are available all evening at Beermoth to celebrate the launch of the new book Manchester's Best Beer, Pubs and Bars. Reserve a spot here.
🎭 Contact Theatre presents 14%, an original production by artistic director Keisha Thompson which follows a British footballer named Nadia after she becomes pregnant. Tickets here.
💃 If you’re looking for great food and a lively atmosphere, book a table at DIECAST on a Thursday and enjoy small plates while Hollywood-style dancers float around you. We recommend the white burrata pizza with pistachio pesto dip. More here.
Looking further ahead? Members get our unmissable weekend to do list in their inboxes every Thursday morning.