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Is Elon Musk really buying Manchester United?

Having seen eight coaches come and go in less than 10 years, Manchester United fans know their false dawns. Wednesday shed a different light on strife at the giant football club: Elon Musk said he was buying it – and then said it was all a joke.

Musk, the world’s richest person, said early on Wednesday that he hadn’t been serious when he tweeted hours previously that he was going to buy Manchester United Plc, now languishing at the foot of the English Premier League as fed-up fans urge current owners, the American Glazer family to sell up.

“No, this is a long-running joke on Twitter. I’m not buying any sports teams,” Musk posted when asked by a user if he was serious about buying the club when he had posted, “I’m buying Manchester United ur (sic) welcome.”

“Although, if it were any team, it would be Man U,” he added, rubbing salt into the wound for some: “They were my fav (sic) team as a kid.”

Some Manchester United fans had previously urged Musk on Twitter to consider buying the club, complaining at what they see as under investment at one of the world’s biggest football clubs. United have not won the English league title since the days of legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson claimed the last of their record 20 wins in 2013, despite the efforts of a cast of eight permanent and temporary coaches since then.

The northern England-based team has more than 32 million followers on its main Twitter account and Musk’s first tweet about the club garnered more than 500,000 “likes” on the platform within six hours.

After Musk said he was joking, the Manchester United Fanatics Club Hungary said, “It’s just a tweet from somebody who not always thinking twice before write something (sic).”

The Manchester United Fans Club Kolkata said: “It again reinstated the fact that Elon and his tweets are just gimmicks. Although it would have been great if he really invested 1/10th of what he paid for Twitter to own this legendary club … the entire fan base is sick and tired of the Glazers.”

In early trading in the club’s Frankfurt-listed shares, the stock was up 2.5 percent.

Irreverent tweeter

Musk has a history of being unconventional and posting irreverent tweets.

Musk
Musk’s tweets about potential acquisitions have landed him in hot water with United States regulators in the past [File: Joe Skipper/Reuters]

“I’m buying Manchester United ur [sic] welcome,” Musk said in a tweet on Tuesday without offering any details.

Musk’s post was a follow-on comment to a previous tweet: “To be clear, I support the left half of the Republican Party and the right half of the Democratic Party!” Left half and right half are football lineup positions.

The comment by the chief executive of electric car giant Tesla comes as United, champions of England a record 20 times, suffer a nightmare opening on the field to the 2022-2023 season.

One of the world’s best known and most widely supported teams, United are rooted at the bottom of the English Premier League after losing their first two games, having failed over the past two months to adequately rebuild a squad that performed comparatively poorly last season.

Its New York-listed shares have slid 24 percent over the last 12 months, valuing it at just more than $2bn.

Neither the Florida-based Glazer family nor Musk immediately responded to requests for comment after the initial tweet.

Clamour from fans and pundits for a change of ownership at the three-time winners of the European Cup, the most prestigious club competition in the global game, is intensifying amid a lengthening run without winning major titles.

In its annual rankings this year, Forbes rated Manchester United, with its huge global fanbase, the third most valuable football club in the world, worth $4.6bn, behind only Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona.

British newspaper The Daily Mirror reported last year that the Glazers, who have faced widespread fan opposition to their stewardship since acquiring the club in 2005 for 790 million pounds ($957m), were prepared to sell but only if they were offered in excess of 4 billion pounds ($4.85bn).

Musk has a history of unconventional actions and comments, making it difficult sometimes to tell when he is joking.

“Next I’m buying Coca-Cola to put the cocaine back in,” Musk tweeted in April, two days after Twitter’s board accepted his unsolicited offer — announced on his Twitter feed — to buy the company. Musk is currently trying to exit a $44bn agreement to buy the social media company, which has taken him to court.

Musk’s tweets about potential acquisitions have landed him in hot water with United States regulators in the past.

In 2018, he tweeted that there was “funding secured” for a $72bn deal to take Tesla private, but did not move ahead with an offer. Musk and Tesla each paid $20m civil fines — and Musk stepped down as Tesla’s chairman – to resolve US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) claims that Musk defrauded investors.

Forbes estimates his fortune at $270bn.

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