Manchester United‘s chances of being bought by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman appear to be all but over in light of his move to buy Newcastle.
The Saudi Royal was strongly linked with an Old Trafford takeover in October 2018, worth an astonishing £4billion, and rumours of his interest have refused to fizzle out.
But on Tuesday, it emerged that a £300m deal for Amanda Staveley to buy Newcastle from Mike Ashley is in place, with Staveley having the backing of Salman’s Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which will take an 80 per cent stake in the club.
Manchester United were first linked with a Saudi takeover back in October 2018
Rumours had emerged that crown prince Mohammed bin Salman was preparing a bid in 2018
Staveley is also backed by UK-based property developers the Reuben brothers.
But Bin Salman has frequently been linked with buying United from the Glazer family and those connections have not died down since news of the initial interest broke 18 months ago.
In November 2019, United’s director Richard Arnold was pictured on social media meeting Saudi delegates in the country but it was downplayed that the meeting had any connection to a takeover.
At the same time, United chief executive Ed Woodward move to further quell talks of a sale when he told club fanzine United We Stand that the Glazers were planning far into the future at Old Trafford.
‘Based on what I see, they’re in it for the long-term,’ Woodward said. ‘With regards to offers or asking prices, my understanding is that there have been no discussions for a price for the club or anything like that.
‘Every conversation we have is based on the long-term.’
As it stands, Bin Salman appears to be on the brink of overseeing an end to Ashley’s 13-year reign as Newcastle owner.
Ashley has been deeply unpopular with Newcastle supporters, particularly in recent seasons were fans have felt his lack of investment has seen a plateau at the club and contributed to the departure of manager Rafa Benitez.
Amanda Staveley is spearheading a takeover of Newcastle, backed by the Saudi Prince
Mike Ashley’s unpopular 13-year reign as Newcastle owner could be about to end
But a takeover from Saudi Arabia has been criticised by Amnesty International due to their human rights record.
‘It’s not for us to say who should own Newcastle, but players, back-room staff and fans alike ought to see this for what it is – sportswashing, plain and simple,’ Amnesty’s UK head of campaigns Felix Jakens said.
‘Saudi Arabia is well-known for its attempts at ‘sportswashing’ – trying to use the glamour and prestige of top-tier sport as a PR tool to distract from the country’s abysmal human rights record.
‘Under the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, there’s been a sweeping human rights crackdown – with numerous peaceful activists jailed, including Loujain al-Hathloul and other brave women’s rights defenders.
‘There’s been a blatant whitewash over Jamal Khashoggi’s grisly murder, there are continuing concerns over Saudi hacking, and the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen has a bloody record of launching indiscriminate attacks on homes and hospitals.’