Sheikh Jassim and Sir Jim Ratcliffe can buy most things but their money cannot give Glazer family a sense of urgency

Manchester United fans protest against the Glazer family's continued ownership outside - Manchester United's takeover story has had everything...except an actual takeover

There is no sign of an imminent conclusion to the Manchester United takeover saga Credit: PA/Nick Potts

We are past now the 18th anniversary of Joel Glazer’s single appearance on MUTV, broadcast on the evening of Friday July 1, albeit recorded a couple of days earlier at Old Trafford before security were forced to escort him and assorted siblings out the stadium past protesting fans.

Time can seem to slow down under the Glazer ownership of Manchester United. Whether one is waiting for further public pronouncements from the family itself – still pending, one open letter aside – a 21st league title, or indeed the completion of the takeover of the club.

That alone is an extraordinary convulsion in the life of the club that for weeks at the start of this year set the game ablaze. It was to be completed in the first quarter of 2023 and certainly in time for the end of last season. Now, two games into the new Premier League season, and 13 days from the end of the transfer window, interested parties are given to wonder if it was all a dream.

The developments have slowed to a trickle. The competing interests, Qatar banker Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani and British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe are obliged to wait in the proverbial ante-room while the Glazer siblings endlessly spitball the options. Just like Succession, so they say, but at least the television drama in question had an ending. Mysterious sheikhs, multiple bids, deadlines established and ignored. United’s takeover story has had everything except an actual takeover.

“Judge us over the long haul, don’t judge us on a day or over the last several months.” Joel Glazer’s words, 18 years ago, felt principally like the things people are obliged to say when acquiring a football club of great social and cultural significance. But he did, nevertheless, say it. “People shouldn’t be concerned about us. We’re traditionalists. We like to carry on traditions and we’ll continue to do that.”

At the time, he was attempting to head off a supporter insurrection that the Glazers would come to realise would never be stopped and instead would become much more virulent. They would soon stop trying. The Glazers discovered that it was much easier to ignore it all than the complex, messy process of persuading and cajoling the club’s support. So ignore it they did, and now 18 years on it has never been clearer than ever that for the six Glazer siblings United is all about price and how much they might take away.

Avram Glazer at last season's FA Cup final - Manchester United's takeover story has had everything...except an actual takeover

Avram Glazer and wife Kendall at Wembley for the FA Cup final in May Credit: PA/Mike Egerton

Any notion of what might be right for the club, its future or the many that care about it, has been placed where the Glazers believe it should be: bottom of the pile. Back to Joel Glazer in the last week of July 2005. “Part of the attraction is the passion; how much people care. I care about the same things the supporters care about, what happens on the pitch. It makes you realise even more the awesome responsibility that’s involved here.”

Awesome responsibility. He got that bit right. It is the nature of United that difficult decisions abound, and so it is this year. The right call over Mason Greenwood, or the husbandry of a shrinking transfer budget in a market when rivals are choosing to be much more bullish. On a wider stage, the shaping of the future European club competitions and fair financial controls in the era of state clubs. These are all issues on which the owners of United should be at the heart, yet they are nowhere. They are invisible.

The Glazers know they cannot lose. Whatever has happened to United post-2005, then post Sir Alex Ferguson, the value of elite-end English football, and by extension the value of its most famous club, has increased. Even an ownership that has spent £1 billion servicing its own buyout debt, and made all the other bad decisions the Glazers have post-2013, has not derailed that train. Which is perhaps why they hesitate to relinquish control as each deadline approaches. It is the ultimate investment – no matter how many stupid things you do, the price just keeps rising.

Manchester United fans protest against the Glazer family - Manchester United's takeover story has had everything...except an actual takeover

Manchester United are braced for more fan protests if the sale of the club is not completed Credit: Ed Sykes/Reuters

In the meantime, the two interested parties find themselves in a state of paralysis. They are aware that there is a huge appetite among the United public for change, and there is much that both would like to discuss. Indeed, we could all do with hearing a little more about Sheikh Jassim and the source of what sounds like his immense wealth, beyond the single official-release picture of him there is in circulation.

Yet both must dance carefully around the sensitivities of the Glazers, and their crippling inaction. Immense wealth, and great success has – one presumes - conferred upon Sheikh Jassim and Sir Jim many privileges denied the rest of us, but not among them is the power to prompt the six Glazer siblings to do anything quickly. Or, indeed, at all. One risky move in public relations strategy and the repercussions could be severe for either of the parties who seek to buy United.

There is never a bad time to get a job as momentous as that of manager of Manchester United although Erik ten Hag would doubtless change a few things if he could. Not least the fan unrest that might come from a non-sale. He and other club executives have had to push on with the original plan for the summer, as it became clear that there would be no change of the guard before then. The £115 million losses United incurred last financial year have brought their own limitations in this summer’s spending which has been steady without yet suggesting it might be spectacular.

The end, if this is the end, of the Glazer ownership is proving as painful and as neurotic as its beginning. The family first, the club a distant second. At least the consolation is that none of the Glazers are trying, this time, to tell us it is any different.