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18 August  
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1989: Man U sold in record takeover deal
Manchester United Football Club has been sold for �m in the biggest takeover deal in the history of British football.

The new owner is Isle of Man-based property tycoon and former footballer, Michael Knighton.

Manchester United chairman Martin Edwards is to receive more than �m for his majority share in the club and will stay on as chief executive.

There had been rumours for some time that Mr Edwards was planning to sell his stake but the deal was shrouded in secrecy.

The sale of his shares ends 25 years of Edwards family control of what has been dubbed "the world's most famous football team".

At the press conference to announce the sale he defended what he called his "sad" decision.

"I believe that under new direction and with new financial backing this club can go even further," Mr Edwards said.

I consider myself to be a football enthusiast first and a businessman second
Michael Knighton
Since taking over at Manchester United in 1980 after the death of his father, Louis, Mr Edwards' large annual salary and his sacking of a popular manager have alienated many fans.

Manchester United gained its worldwide reputation after a golden era in the 50s under Sir Matt Busby and his "Busby Babes".

Players who followed them like Bobby Charlton, Dennis Law and George Best also helped enhance the club's reputation and its trophy cabinet.

But in recent years Manchester United has been - by its standards - in the footballing doldrums and attendance at matches has dropped off.

It is badly in need of a cash injection for both new players and facilities. The new owner has promised to spend �m refurbishing Manchester United's Old Trafford ground - England's largest stadium apart from Wembley.

"Manchester United is a legend. It is undoubtedly in my view the greatest football club in the world," Mr Knighton told reporters.

"I consider myself to be a football enthusiast first and a businessman second," he added.

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Sir Matt Busby (centre, standing)  with players in 1956
Man U was dominant in the 1950s under manager Matt Busby


In Context
The deal with Michael Knighton collapsed after his financial backers backed out.

He went on to buy Carlisle United instead.

Mr Edwards had already rejected a bid of �m from newspaper magnate, Robert Maxwell in 1984.

In 1991 Manchester United was successfully floated on the Stock Exchange with the club being valued at �m.

In 2001 Manchester United was the most successful stock market listed football club in the world making a pre-tax profit of nearly �m.

Between 1991 and his resignation as chief executive in 2000 Martin Edwards is believed to have earned millions by gradually selling off his shares.


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