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Michael Knighton is not Manchester United's Messiah. Here's why

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Roar Rookie
12th August, 2022

There are plenty of Manchester United fans who hate the Glazer family, their current owners.

That is a given fact. So the announcement that British businessman Michael Knighton is creating a consortium and planning a takeover bid of the Mancunian club, may be met with glee by some fans, especially those of the younger generation who do not know about Knighton.

This news gives me the chance to tell a widely untold story, and to use it as a way to discourage any Man Utd fans for wanting Knighton, if there are any out there.

Knighton’s name was completely unknown to the public until August 1989, where he made a bid of £20 million to buy Manchester United.

This was the biggest bid for a British club ever at the time and was astonishing considering that The Red Devils had finished twelfth in the First Division the season before, were knocked out in the sixth round (quarter-finals) of the FA Cup and the third round (last 32) of the League Cup.

United were not at the top of the Football League that they would soon conquer and could not compete with clubs like Liverpool and Arsenal.

The astonishing fee was duly expected by then chief executive Martin Edwards. Along with the £20 million, Knighton promised to invest £10 million into their stadium Old Trafford and restore the club’s place at the top of English football.

False promises, it soon arose, would become a theme of Knighton’s business career. Fans were initially sceptical of the strange-looking man (or maybe that was just the 1980s) attempting to buy their club.


This led to him famously (or infamously) performing keepy-uppies before a game at Old Trafford to ‘prove’ that he was a football fan. The deal seemed to be going ahead before other fellow investors pulled out, Knighton, had been thwarted.

The United failure didn’t seem to discourage Knighton however, instead seeming to give him more motivation. In 1992, he bought Carlisle United, who were in the fourth tier of English football.

This deal went much more smoothly and received a lot less media attention. Knighton promised to Carlisle fans, as many other rich investors have to fans of small clubs, that he would bring them back to the top flight, somewhere they hadn’t been for almost twenty years.

His plan was to spend big and take them to dizzying heights they had yet to experience (apart from for one season).

Harry Maguire

Harry Maguire of Manchester United
(Photo by Mike Owen/Getty Images)

The Cumbrians started strongly under Knighton, winning the Third Division (confusingly the fourth tier of English football) in 1995 and after being relegated returning to Division Two in 1997, as well as winning the Football League Trophy.

During this time Knighton seemed to resemble a spoilt and moaning child who made very rash decisions, threatening to sue a local newspaper for “publicly humiliating” him over claims that he saw a UFO in 1976.


Knighton suffered even more of a negative public perception in the 1997-98 season after sacking popular manager Mervyn Day and appointing himself, the owner, as manager.

It took a relegation and a bad start in the next season for Knighton to resign managerial responsibilities and hand over to Nigel Pearson. He remained chairman but was had a lot less money to spend on the club.

Perhaps the most eventful moment of Knighton’s ownership was on May 8th 1999, when goalkeeper Jimmy Glass scored a last minute winner to keep United in the fourth tier.

Carlisle had to use special permission from the Football League to sign Glass on loan for the final two games of the season, as they had no goalkeeper. Frankly, Glass’ story deserves an article of its own.

Knighton’s popularity continued to dwindle further but he remained stubborn and eventually, in 2002, after three failed takeover attempts and a manager sacked for comments on one attempt, the club were put in voluntary administration. The club were finally sold in July of the same year to John Courtenay.

Ultimately, Knighton’s story is one of man who was completely unfit to run a football club. Unfortunately, Knighton is one of many owners who managed to trickle through the Football League’s test if an owner is suitable.


Another example of a man who dreamed big, lied big and placed a lower league football club in a terrible position. Knighton is not the man for Manchester United.

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