United shares climbing as Glazer eyes takeover bid

The Leprechaun versus the Coolmore Mafia is shaping up to be every bit as tasty as this weekend's FA Cup derby in Manchester.

Takeover speculation pushed Manchester United shares to a three-year high yesterday on the back of reports that the US sports magnate, Malcolm Glazer, aka "The Leprechaun", has instructed the German Commerzbank to examine the possibility of a bid. But it is understood that the Irish racing tycoons John Magnier and JP McManus, aka the "Coolmore Mafia", who own 28.89 per cent of United through their Cubic Expression company, have no intention of selling out.

According to reports, representatives of Glazer, who owns the Tampa Bays Buccaneers NFL franchise, have made informal contact with the United board about a takeover.

Yet even if Glazer, who upped his holding to 16.3 per cent on Thursday, made a bid, Cubic would be under no obligation to sell. A projected profit for Cubic of more than £50m on its shares would be small beer to the Irishmen.

It is understood that they are not planning a change of position even if Magnier settles his bitter legal battle with the United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, over the stud rights to the racehorse Rock Of Gibraltar.

If Magnier and McManus stay true to their stated aim of long-term involvement in the club, Glazer can hope to buy two-thirds of United's shares at the maximum, if he can even afford them, which is not certain. Cubic's push for seats on the board, in readiness for any scrap, will now intensify.