Supporters urge United board to keep distance from Glazer bid

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The Independent Online

The Manchester United board has been urged not to give Malcolm Glazer any encouragement over his prospective £800m takeover of the Old Trafford club.

The Manchester United board has been urged not to give Malcolm Glazer any encouragement over his prospective £800m takeover of the Old Trafford club. United's directors, led by the chief executive David Gill, are mulling over a formal reaction to the revised proposals submitted by the Glazer camp almost a fortnight ago. While the club has refused to comment on the matter since Gill declared that the board would not, there is widespread speculation it will adopt a "neutral" stance, neither recommending, nor rejecting a potential bid.

Instead, it is assumed that the board will refer the decision to the shareholders, effectively placing United's future in the hands of the Irish racing tycoons John Magnier and J P McManus, who through their Cubic Expression investment vehicle own a 28.9 per cent stake in the club. Although there is no apparent change in Gill's position from 11 February, when he authorised a statement saying Glazer's proposals were "aggressive" and "potentially damaging" to the long-term interests of the business, it seems his hand is being forced by the threat of legal action.

Some hedgefund holders believe an anticipated 300p per share offer from Glazer would constitute a good deal, given that United shares were trading at 269p yesterday afternoon and are ready to challenge Gill in court should they not be allowed the opportunity to vote on the American's plans. Legal opinion over whether shareholders' interests should take precedence over all others in takeovers is divided.

The Glazer camp clearly believes they should, particularly as Gill has previously stated that 300p would be a "fair price", while an alternative view is that the views of United's supporters should also be taken into account. The influential fans' group Shareholders United believes that the latter stance is the one Gill should be adopting and has urged club officials not to provide Glazer with any assistance over plans they have spent months campaigning against.

"The board should not do anything to facilitate, support or encourage Glazer in his aggressive, hostile and damaging attempt to take over our club," said the SU chairman Nick Towle.

"If an offer is to be made, it should be left to Glazer himself to make it directly to shareholders and should not come via the board in any way, shape or form.

"What is more, it is surely now time for the club to ask the Takeover Panel to issue a 'put up or shut up' deadline to Glazer. With the FA Cup final coming up, the last thing we need is for this protracted and unsettling saga to drag on any longer."

However, no matter which way the United board decides to move, the club's ultimate destiny looks to be in the hands of Cubic Expression.

Having cut off talks with Glazer themselves in October, Magnier and McManus have stayed completely silent on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner, other than to state in January that "they remain long-term investors".

The Irish duo, who are notoriously reluctant to seek any sort of public profile outside their racing interests, would undoubtedly prefer to have the option of following a board recommendation, but that now seems increasingly unlikely to be available.

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