Knights show their armour

Steve Dinneen
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HIGH-powered Manchester United fans have stepped up their bid to wrest control of the club from the Glazer family.

A team of City-based financiers, known as the Red Knights, hope to force United’s American owners to consider a bid for the club by urging fans to give up their season tickets next season.

City A.M. last week revealed critics of the owners hope to convince more than 15,000 fans to cancel their season tickets next season – a move that would cost the club more than £12m.

In a bid to persuade fans to dump the beloved tickets, those who give them up could be offered first refusal to buy them back if the takeover goes ahead, we have learned.

Demand for season tickets is thought to have dropped at the club and those on the waiting list will be urged not to snap them up.

The Glazers have resolutely maintained the the debt-ridden club is not for sale, but it is thought a sizable dent in revenue would be enough to bring them around the table.

At least 30 highly wealthy fans are believed to have pledged more than £15m each in preparation for a £1bn bid for the club, with 20 more on the way. The remainder will be made up by ordinary fans.

Yesterday the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust released a statement confirming a “group of high net worth individuals who support Manchester United,” led by City Jim O’Neill, chief economist of Goldman Sachs, and Seymour Pierce owner Keith Harris, met to discuss the buyout.

The statement said: “Any new ownership model would aim not only to put the club on a sound financial footing, but would also aim to put the supporters at the heart of everything the club does. In the coming weeks the Red Knights will continue to work with Must and others to formulate our proposal.”

In a sign the campaign has stepped up a notch, high powered City PR firm Finsbury have been hired – the same agency that worked for the Glazers during their takeover of the club.

Must have also hired Blue State Digital, the online marketing firm behind President Barack Obama’s hugely successful election campaign.

The news coincided with the release of United’s figures for the six months to December, which showed turnover up 19 per cent to £144.7m from £121.7m. The club’s debt dropped from £538.1m to £507.5m and there were increases in gate receipts and TV money. Commercial revenue rose by 16 per cent to £38.7m despite the green and gold protest depriving the club of an estimated £900,000 of merchandise.