Manchester United kick-off their season at home to Wolves on Monday with fresh hope they can end a 10-year wait to win a Premier League title despite the lingering uncertainty over the club’s future.
Nine months on from an announcement by owners, the Glazer family, that they were exploring a sale of the club, the process has stalled.
Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani and British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe appeared locked in a battle for control of the club during several rounds of bidding.
However, supporters’ hopes that a new owner could be in place by the start of the new season have been dashed.
Deeply unpopular with fans since they saddled the club with debt in a £790 million ($1 billion) leveraged takeover in 2005, the Glazers are reportedly seeking a world record £6 billion for a sports club.
Protests are planned at Old Trafford on Monday, but they have consistently fallen on deaf ears during the Americans’ nearly two decades in charge.
Despite the uncertainty, United manager Erik ten Hag has again been backed heavily in the transfer market to try and build on a positive first season in charge.
The former Ajax boss overcame a disastrous start to his reign 12 months ago to guide United back into the Champions League and end a six-year trophy drought by lifting the League Cup back in February.
Ten Hag has addressed key positions in a near £200 million outlay on goalkeeper Andre Onana, midfielder Mason Mount and striker Rasmus Hojlund.
Onana, who previously worked under Ten Hag at Ajax, is a more natural fit for the Dutchman’s preference for a ball-playing goalkeeper than David de Gea, who departed United after 12 years as number one.
Mount was both a fans’ favourite at Chelsea and trusted by a series of coaches at Stamford Bridge only to exit his boyhood club over a contract dispute.
But in spending up to £72 million on 20-year-old Dane Hojlund, there are doubts over whether United have overspent on potential rather than prioritising the present.
An expected offensive to try and land Harry Kane never materialised, as the England captain instead headed to Bayern Munich from Tottenham in his quest for silverware.
United already chasing
Hojlund’s size and speed have earned comparisons to Manchester City superstar Erling Haaland.
But whereas City knew they were already getting one of the world’s most clinical strikers in signing Haaland last year, Hojlund still has much to prove.
Atalanta banked an enormous profit on the player they had signed from Sturm Graz for just £17 million 12 months ago and who scored only nine times during his spell in Serie A.
“We have chosen a striker and we are really happy with our choice,” said Ten Hag as he defended the decision to go for Hojlund over Kane.
“There is a strategy in every decision and we are happy with the squad we have now.”
Hojlund will be missing for the first few weeks of the season due to a back injury, but United can ill afford to let the chance of a flying start go by if they are to wrestle the title back across Manchester from City.
The defending champions cruised to a 3-0 win at Burnley to open their quest to win a fourth straight English title – a feat no one has ever managed.
Arsenal and Newcastle were also victorious on the opening weekend to leave United already chasing.
But Wolves go to Old Trafford in turmoil after losing their manager just days before the campaign started.
Julen Lopetegui stepped down on Tuesday, to be replaced by Gary O’Neil, due to a lack of available funds in the transfer market.
That is not something Ten Hag can complain of, even if the United fans remain unhappy with the owners’ reluctance to let go.
World Cup News
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Tuesday blasted as “insufficient” the apology given by...
Spain’s Women’s World Cup hero Olga Carmona paid tribute to her father on Monday...
Spain midfielder Jenni Hermoso defended Spanish football federation president Luis Rubiales after he came...
Sunday’s World Cup final between England and Spain is the final act of a...