THAT WAS THE WEEKEND THAT WAS: ...old boys...

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The Independent Online
Friday's announcement by Martin Edwards that he might sell Manchester United reveals an extraordinary coincidence: it was on the same date - 11 October - in 1989 that the take-over bid by the ball-juggling property dealer Michael Knighton (right) finally collapsed.

The figures were somewhat different then. Edwards has signalled that today's prospective bidders should think in terms of pounds 400m. In 1989 he almost let United go for pounds 20m. Given the potential value of his 17 per cent stake, Edwards may shudder at the thought.

The contract for the sale was torn up at the 11th hour when Knighton withdrew "in the best interests of the club." Negotiations had been peppered with controversy. Although Edwards emphasised that Knighton was in a position to complete the deal, doubts had surrounded his financial arrangements and the acceptability of his backers. At one point, Edwards obtained an injunction to prevent Knighton showing details of the club to his advisors.

Subsequently, Knighton - now chairman of Carlisle - spent three years as a United director and will claim some credit for the club's huge commercial expansion. Edwards may be interested to recall the words of a merchant banker in 1989, who said that "buying Manchester United would be like buying a Van Gogh."

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