Sir Jim Ratcliffe was welcomed to Manchester United by chief executive Richard Arnold after flying in for face-to-face talks at Old Trafford.
Ratcliffe was flanked by his Ineos sporting team as he arrived the morning after the Qatari rival bid spent 10 hours at the stadium and Carrington.
Ineos co-owners Andy Currie and John Reece, alongside Sir David Brailsford – the former British Cycling chief who is now director of sport at Ineos – are also in attendance.
The stakes are high for Ratcliffe after Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani’s delegation left Manchester optimistic about their takeover hopes.
Sheikh Jassim and Ratcliffe appear certain to the second table, more detailed outright purchase offers within the next 10 days.
The two leading contenders to buy the club have taken different approaches in the delegations they are sending to meetings with brokers and the club.
Sheikh Jassim did not attend in person. The Qatari group in Manchester included Shahzad Shabaz, who is president of the newly-created NineTwo foundation which would run the club. Fady Backhos, a senior personal advisor to the Sheikh, Sam Powers, a global head at Bank of America, Yasir Shah, managing director at Bank of America and lawyers from the firm Macfarlanes were also in attendance. The day was seen by bidders as substantive and very positive in developing relationships.
Ratcliffe, meanwhile, wanted to be there in person, and was also joined by Ineos Sport chair Rob Nevin and CEO Jean Claude Blanc at Friday’s talks. As reported by Telegraph Sport on Wednesday, the two bidders are among eight groups in talks with United about the future ownership of the club.
Some of the eight are interested in a full takeover while others are contemplating financing options. United have been explaining to bidders the “opportunities and challenges” of running the club. One source close to the talks says United’s director of football, John Murtough, is among the delegation addressing interested parties.
Insiders maintain that the process remains on track and a deal is within reach by the end of next month, despite fears elsewhere that the deadline could be extended.
Only the Qatari and Ineos bids have publicly disclosed their preference for a total buyout of the six Glazer siblings’ controlling Class B shares. Sources with knowledge of the process say there are two other parties interested in buying the club in its entirety.
The Americans want at least £5 billion to sell, but it is thought that the offers from Sheikh Jassim and Ratcliffe fall short of that valuation.