Sources: Qatari sheikh eyes roles for Man United legends

Manchester United‘s greatest players from Sir Alex Ferguson’s most successful teams will be offered the chance to return to Old Trafford in prominent roles if Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani succeeds in his bid to buy the club, sources have told ESPN.

Such a move would open the door for high-profile players from United’s 1999 Treble winners, including the “Class of 92” group of home-grown stars such as Gary Neville and Paul Scholes, and leading figures from the club’s most recent Champions League-winning team of 2008, to represent the club at various levels.

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Sources have told ESPN that the absence of the club’s most renowned players within the United hierarchy is an issue that Sheikh Jassim is determined to address to ensure that the club takes advantage of the profile and experience of former greats in a similar manner to clubs such as Liverpool, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and AC Milan, who all employ some of the team’s most iconic players in senior roles.

Sources have said that a number of players from the team that won the treble and 2008 Champions League winners have already been approached by representatives of Sheikh Jassim to discuss the proposal.

Although United employ former players Bryan Robson, Denis Irwin and Andrew Cole in ceremonial ambassador roles, technical director Darren Fletcher is the only ex-player employed in a senior role at the club.

Former United manager Ferguson, who retired in May 2013, had expressed a desire during his time at the club for United to copy the Bayern model of appointing former players to executive roles, but his recommendation has not been implemented by the Glazer family, United’s owners.

Sheikh Jassim, the chairman of Qatar Islamic Bank (QIB), is competing with Jim Ratcliffe, Britain’s richest man, to buy United from the Glazer family, who have owned the Premier League team since May 2005.

Six Glazer siblings control United, with sources telling ESPN that Joel and Avram — the co-chairmen of the club — are keen to retain an involvement if outside investment can be secured to fund their plans to rebuild the team and Old Trafford stadium. Kevin, Edward, Bryan and Darcie Glazer Kassewitz, meanwhile, are planning to offload their shareholding.

With Raine Group, the New York investment bank, imposing an April 28 deadline for third bids to buy the club, sources involved with the process expect a preferred bidder to be identified within days should the Glazers opt to sell.

United States-based investment groups Elliott Management, Ares, Sixth Street and Carlyle Group have all lodged an interest in acquiring a stake, rather than a full buy-out, and could yet be identified as future partners by the Glazers should Joel and Avram choose to stay on at Old Trafford.