Who is Michael Knighton? Ex-Man Utd director planning “hostile” takeover bid from Glazers

Michael Knighton has emerged as the face of a new consortium plotting a takeover bid for Manchester United which aims to oust the Glazer family after 17 tumultuous years in charge at Old Trafford

Manchester United are set to be the subject of a new takeover bid from flamboyant businessman Michael Knighton.

The 70-year-old is a former director at Old Trafford, who came close to buying the Red Devils outright in 1989. Knighton famously juggled the ball on the Theatre of Dreams’ hallowed turf and smashed the ball into the Stretford End net to herald in a new era, but his compelling strategy to purchase the club fell through.

The crowd were wowed by their prospective owner but 33 years later, he still isn’t in charge – not for the want of trying. Knighton is now back again with a new takeover plot, declaring that he’s “ready and waiting” to submit a “hostile” bid in an effort to oust the unpopular Glazer family from the Old Trafford boardroom. The move follows more fan protests which preceeded United’s dreadful 2-1 loss at home to Brighton on Sunday to get Erik ten Hag ‘s reign as boss off to a nightmare start in the Premier League.

But who is Michael Knighton? A character, that’s for sure.

His juggling all those years ago impressed supporters, but then-Red Devils owner Martin Edwards was “absolutely horrified” by the charm offensive. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” Edwards was quoted as saying by FourFourTwo. “I kept saying to myself, ‘What the hell have I done?’ I realised that I’d made a big mistake. The other directors felt the same. They cringed and began to turn on Knighton.”

47,245 fans – 10,000 higher than the previous season’s average – watched him run onto the pitch wearing boots and a United training top ahead of their 4-1 victory over Arsenal to begin the new league campaign, a day after announcing a £10million takeover deal. Despite recognised the club’s huge potential and making grand plans for the future under Sir Alex Ferguson during a difficult period at the club, Knighton ultimately didn’t have the money to take over and many believe that he made a fool of the Red Devils board.

The Derbyshire-born tycoon – who stuck around in the Old Trafford director’s box until 1992 – did have a fortune, though. Knighton made his wealth in the property market and when he departed Manchester, it was for to buy another United: Carlisle.

Memorably guiding the Blues to their first-ever trip to Wembley three years into his reign, when they faced Birmingham City in the Football League Trophy final, his decade-long tenure resulted in him becoming “the most reviled man in Cumbria” – by his own admission. Wars with supporters and the media that rendered him a villain in the Great Border City mean that he’s more than used to the kind of protests which the Glazers are now facing.

To demonstrate his unpopularity, a whopping 2,000 Carlisle fans attended a meeting on the final day of the 2000-01 season with the goal of orchestrating Knighton’s exit. It was then when the Blues went into voluntary administration, with the team having finished in the bottom three of the entire Football League for three years in a row during a period in himself he appointed himself as manager – only to win 19 of his 68 games in the dugout.

He’s reportedly writing a book about his tumultuous Brunton Park tenure, Carlisle win the Football League Trophy in 1997 after losing on their first venture to Wembley, as well as the famous Jimmy Glass goal two years later. The book will no-doubt also feature the palaver about him allegedly being contacted by aliens. Yes, aliens. While Knight profusely denies that any extra-terrestrials spoke to him, local paper the News and Star once ran a story claiming that he and his wife, Rosemary, had seen a UFO.

It was said that Knighton received a telepathic message from the aliens, saying: “Don’t be afraid, Michael.” After the ex-Blues supremo furiously threatened to resign in the wake of the story being published, News and Star editor Keith Sutton offered an “unreserved” apology. “Just because Michael Knighton has seen a UFO doesn’t disqualify him from being a football club chairman,” it read. Zing.

The Cumbrians were on their way to ruin during Knighton’s final years up until 2002, needing Glass’ heroics to save them three years prior – another alien encounter. “I believe in alien beings. I believe in Frankenstein. I believe in God,” Knighton memorably declared. “And most of all I believe in on-loan goalkeepers who can score goals in the 91st minute.” The late Irish businessman John Courtenay succeeded him in 2002 with an historic supporter-backed takeover.

As a youngster, Knighton tried to become a professional footballer and secured an apprenticeship at Coventry City, but was forced to cut his career short due to injury. Following the heartache, he moved into teaching, becoming a P.E. teacher at what is now known as Huddersfield Grammar School. Knighton went on to become headteacher there before leaving the school behind in 1984 to take up property interests.

Now spending his time time painting, sculpting and writing poetry, he wants back in the Old Trafford boardroom after 20 years out of football. “We need to rid our football club of this ownership as they have had their day, time has run out and we have had 17 years of disappointment, really,” Knighton told filmmaker John Gubba’s YouTube channel, Man Utd The Religion.

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