Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) -
One of Manchester United's leading supporters' groups warned Sunday against a takeover of the club emerging from a country where same-sex relationships are illegal.
Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani has promised a debt-free bid for the English football giants, while rumours persist of a possible Saudi Arabia takeover of the English football giants, put up for sale by its controversial US-based owners, the Glazer family.
Sheikh Jassim's only publicly declared rival bidder for the Red Devils is Jim Ratcliffe.
Born in Failsworth, Greater Manchester, the 70-year-old Ratcliffe is one of Britain's wealthiest people, with an estimated net worth of £12.5 billion ($15 billion) following the success of INEOS, his global chemical company.
But his firm's ownership of French Ligue 1 club Nice has also caused unease among United fans.
The Manchester United Supporters Trust, echoing concerns expressed by the the LGBTQ+ supporters' group the Rainbow Devils, said Sunday: 'There are questions about sporting integrity given the exceptionally close links between some bidders and the owners of other European clubs including PSG and Nice.'
Calling for all bidders to 'open a dialogue' with fans groups, MUST's statement added: 'We also note the importance that any owner respects the rights of all people, particularly women and the LGBTQ+ community. Concerns have been raised by other fans groups which we fully support.'
Opinions among United supporters spoken to by AFP at Old Trafford before a 3-0 win at home to Leicester that left their side third in the Premier League table were divided, with IT worker Darren O'Donough saying: 'I suppose I like the fact that Jim Ratcliffe is Manchester, he's Manchester born and bred.
'But the Qatari bid brings a lot of money, a lot of investment to the club.'
The 44-year-old from Northern Ireland said concerns about Qatar's human rights record would not be helped 'by keeping them at arm's length'.
'I like that it (the bid) is going to be debt-free and that all the profits are going to go back into the club so that's very appealing to me as well.'
Dick Morden, 65, from Leicester, central England, said his preference was 'probably Ratcliffe because he's English but you don't know.
'But Ratcliffe was (a) United (fan) as a nipper (child) so I'd rather have him.'
- 'Glazers out' -
According to Sky, a successful bid by Ratcliffe would mean he owned 69 percent of United, which is the Glazers' share, and they would no longer be involved if he had majority control.
The Glazers are loathed by many United fans for saddling the club with huge debts in their £790 million 2005 takeover.
Ross Ingles, a 30-year-old project manager from Glasgow, was still worried about a residual Glazer involvement in a Ratcliffe regime.
'I want the Glazers out. So if it's an option between 75 percent with Jim or 100 percent with the Qataris, it has to be the Qataris,' he added.
United, one of the most successful clubs in English football history, have failed to win any silverware since 2017, struggling to keep pace with bitter rivals Manchester City since the retirement of legendary boss Alex Ferguson in 2013.
But they have enjoyed a revival under new manager Erik ten Hag, who took over before the start of the current campaign.
Steve Storrinot, a 59-year-old United fan from Coventry, said all would be well for the record 20-times champions of England and three-time kings of Europe come what may.
'We're Man United. We're the best club in the world. People forget that... we've been on the slide. Now we're climbing and we'll roar again.
'Don't worry about that. We're United -- simple as that. We don't go away.'