Roy Gardner, the chief executive of Centrica, is to become the next chairman of Manchester United, having beaten off stiff competition for the job.
Mr Gardner is understood to have been selected by an appointments committee and is now awaiting ratification by the board. The club will finalise the decision by its annual general meeting in mid-November.
Mr Gardner, a director of the club since 1999, has been a fanatical Manchester United supporter since childhood and Centrica has a box at its Old Trafford ground. He will replace Sir Roland Smith in the role of non-executive chairman next March.
Mr Gardner, who is 56, is understood to have wanted to lead the club for a long time. In clinching the job he has trounced Philip Yea, also a United director, and Keith Harris, chairman of the Football League and a member of the Wembley National Stadium board. Neither Manchester United nor Centrica would comment yesterday.
Mr Gardner's appointment as chairman would raise questions about his position at Centrica, where he could continue as chief executive for another four years. He is credited with orchestrating the successful diversification of Centrica.