Ronnie O’Sullivan reeled off five frames in succession to beat Zhou Yuelong 6-2 and reach the quarter-finals of the Players Championship.

Competing for the first time since withdrawing from the Wales Open due to anxiety, O’Sullivan was far from his fluent best in the early stages but improved markedly after the interval in Telford.

The seven-time world champion produced a superb total clearance of 136 in the sixth frame, won the next after Zhou inexplicably missed a simple green and wrapped up the win with a run of 73.

O’Sullivan was in no mood to give any insight into his performance, however, telling ITV4: “I don’t assess my performances really, I make that a golden rule. Bit of match practice, take what I can from the tour and move on.

“I’m just trying to get away with playing as least as I can, I feel happier doing that.

“This is all icing on the cake for me, whatever I get off this tour. I’ve got my exhibitions, my ambassador work and that’s my main thing – I just fit in a few tournaments around that.”

Mark Allen earlier made three consecutive centuries, including a tournament record 146, on his way to an impressive 6-3 win over three-time world champion Mark Williams.

Allen followed his 146 in the opening frame with breaks of 112 and 102, restricting Williams to a solitary point in the process, and also made breaks of 94, 70 and 68 to ease into the quarter-finals.

“Any win against Mark is a good win, but to play like that and score like that, that’s what I needed because I haven’t been doing that much,” Allen told ITV4.

“I’m not going to go into it, but I am trying something a bit different this week so we’ll see if it works. It is a timing issue that I feel like I’ve had in recent months so the technical change I’ve made I’m hoping will correct that.

“I started the match as good as you could with three centuries and disappointed not to make four, but that’s the way you need to play.

“I lost a few (against Mark) early on when I first turned pro and I think that’s nine of the last 10 I’ve won now so maybe that’s in his head a little bit as well.”

Allen will play Gary Wilson in the quarter-finals after he came from 2-0 down to beat Hossein Vafaei 6-4, the Welsh Open winner sealing victory with a break of 95.

Ali Carter will take on Judd Trump after breaks of 116, 97, 66 and 69 helped secure a 6-2 victory over Tom Ford.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe has become part owner of Manchester United as one of the UK’s richest men has bought a 27.7 per cent stake in the club he supported as a boy.

The billionaire has bought a share in the Old Trafford club in a long and drawn-out process after Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani withdrew his early interest in buying the club outright.

The 71-year-old has a reported net worth of £12.5bn thanks to the success of global chemical company Ineos, which has enjoyed exponential growth since he founded it in 1998, and will assume delegated responsibility for the club’s football operations. He will also invest an additional 300 million US dollars (£236.7m) into the club’s infrastructure.

Ratcliffe has been chairman throughout and has seen the company go from 400 employees to 26,000 and annual revenues of around £52.5bn.

Ineos has diversified its interests over the years to incorporate consumer brands and sports interests, which now includes the club Ratcliffe grew up supporting.

Born in Failsworth in 1952, a “quite deep-rooted” passion for United grew as he spent the first 10 years of his life in the Greater Manchester town.

Ratcliffe’s family eventually moved to Hull before he went onto to study chemical engineering at Birmingham University, then gain an MBA from London Business School.

He began his career at Exxon Chemicals before moving to Courtaulds and in 1992 led the buyout of Inspec Group plc, mortgaging his house to help complete that deal.

Six years on, he bought a plant in Antwerp, Belgium from Inspec for £84m and formed Ineos, which has gone onto become a chemical giant.

Ratcliffe – who received a knighthood in 2018 for services to business and investment – remains chairman of the company, which has developed a varied sporting portfolio over recent years.

Ineos Grenadiers are a leading professional cycling team and Sir Ben Ainslie-led Ineos Britannia is the Challenger of Record for the 37th America’s Cup.

The company is principal partner to the Mercedes Formula One team, performance partner to New Zealand’s rugby union teams and supported Eliud Kipchoge’s bid to run a sub two-hour marathon.

Ineos is now looking to take its football ownership to another level, having taken over Swiss Super League team FC Lausanne-Sport in 2017 and acquired Ligue 1 club Nice two years later.

In 2022, Ratcliffe saw a last-ditch £4.25bn bid for Chelsea – a club he grew a “split allegiance” for during his time in London – rejected.

“I am a season ticket holder at Chelsea,” the billionaire told the Daily Telegraph in 2018. “Have been for years, although I’m a Manchester United fan really. Or was… but it’s not getting any better (at United).

“It’s gone from bad to catastrophic. Talk about a glass half-empty.”

Things have improved on the field lately but there is plenty of work to do away from it, which is why so many United fans are grateful that Ratcliffe has bought a stake in the club.

He said in October 2022 that he “can’t sit around hoping that one day Manchester United will become available” after Joel and Avram Glazer indicated to him that they did not want to sell.

But the following announcement that a full or partial takeover would be considered moved the goalposts, paving the way for Ratcliffe’s investment in United.

Substitute Tony Springett earned Northampton a late 2-2 League One draw at near-neighbours Oxford with a stoppage-time equaliser.

The on-loan Norwich winger showed good composure with a tidy finish in a crowded goalmouth after collecting Will Hoskins’ left-wing cross as the hosts recorded their fifth draw from their last six games.

Northampton also inflicted late pain on Oxford just before Christmas when they grabbed a stoppage-time win at Sixfields.

Josh Murphy gave the U’s the perfect start here by taking a pass from Billy Bodin and hammering a 20-yard drive into the net after just five minutes for his second goal in successive games.

Northampton levelled in the 35th minute from their first effort on goal. Brighton loanee Marc Leonard crossed the ball deep from the right and Will Hondermarck headed powerfully home for his first goal of the season to equalise.

Cobblers goalkeeper Louie Moulden beat out a drive from Cameron Brannagan before the break and Greg Leigh shot narrowly wide just after it.

Will Goodwin diverted Owen Dale’s right-wing cross home the 81st minute for his first Oxford goal to put them 2-1 up, but Springett had the final say to give Cobblers a point at the death.

Marko Arnautovic came off the bench to score the winning goal as Inter Milan defeated Atletico Madrid 1-0 at the San Siro in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.

The substitute fired home on the rebound with 11 minutes to play after Lautaro Martinez had been denied when racing through on goal by goalkeeper Jan Oblak, squeezing it inside the near post as Samuel Lino tried gallantly to clear from the goal line.

Earlier, Arnautovic and Martinez had wasted the two best chances of the game for the hosts, failing to find the target from good positions, as Diego Simeone’s side threatened to make it a frustrating night for the Serie A leaders.

For the visitors, Alvaro Morata headed wide from six yards out in the final minutes after getting on the end of Angel Correa’s deep cross.

Elsewhere, PSV Eindhoven came from behind to claim a 1-1 draw in their last-16 first leg against Borussia Dortmund.

Former PSV forward Donyell Malen scored after 24 minutes with a shot that deflected in at the near post beyond goalkeeper Walter Benitez.

But the Bundesliga side were denied the chance to take a one-goal advantage back to Germany when Luuk de Jong levelled from the penalty spot 11 minutes after the break.

Substitute Omari Hutchinson struck the winner at the death as Ipswich boosted their Championship automatic-promotion hopes with a 4-3 win over bottom-placed Rotherham.

Hutchinson’s effort in the sixth minute of added time after Cafu’s levelling penalty moments earlier left the Tractor Boys behind second-placed Leeds only on goal difference, with Southampton losing to Hull.

Town initially fell behind after just two minutes through Tom Eaves, but responded thanks to a Keiffer Moore strike and Wes Burns’ first-half brace.

Hakeem Odoffin pulled one back for the Millers in the second half before the nail-biting additional time.

The visitors got off to the perfect start through Eaves.

Ipswich defender Harry Clarke had a chance to clear from Town’s penalty box but Sam Clucas stuck out a foot and toed the ball into the path of the Millers striker who guided his shot beyond the reach of goalkeeper Vaclav Hladky.

But Town struck back eight minutes later through Burns.

Sam Morsy swept forward into the Rotherham penalty area and his cross was firmly headed home by the winger.

Ipswich’s dominance after conceding an early goal paid off in the 14th minute when Moore put them in front, notching his fourth goal in five games following his arrival on loan from Bournemouth.

It came from a wonderful run down the right by Burns who swept past Lee Peltier. His pinpoint cross found the unmarked Wales international striker who side-footed home on the run and into the far left corner of the net.

Burns got his second goal to put Town further ahead in the 29th minute.

Conor Chaplin played him in down the right and his initial shot was parried out by Viktor Johansson but fell to raiding full-back Leif Davis whose shot found Burns and he stabbed home from close range.

There was a lengthy delay when Rotherham midfielder Ollie Rathbone crashed into the advertising boards following a challenge with Jeremy Sarmiento and was stretchered off on the medical cart to be replaced by Femi Seriki.

Burns almost completed a hat-trick when he headed narrowly wide of the Rotherham left-hand post but the visitors pulled a goal back through Odoffin.

Hladky failed to punch the ball clear when challenged in the six-yard box and it fell to the Rotherham central defender who coolly slotted the ball into the empty net.

United pressed for an equaliser and Sam Nombe struck the post but they equalised in added on time with a penalty by substitute Cafu, only for Hutchinson to secure the three points with a stunning strike past Johansson to raise the roof of Portman Road.

West Brom strengthened their hold on fifth place in the Championship as they bounced back with a comfortable 3-0 victory at Plymouth.

The Baggies suffered defeat at promotion contenders Southampton on Friday but came out fighting on Tuesday night, with all three goals coming in the final 30 minutes from Cedric Kipre, substitute Mikey Johnston and Tom Fellows.

West Brom’s Alex Mowatt went close in the third minute with a goal-bound angled drive from range that took a deflection, off a home defender and onto the post.

Although the subsequent corner was cleared, it needed a superb sliding tackle from recalled defender Brendan Galloway to deny visiting skipper Jed Wallace as he homed in on goal a minute later.

In Argyle’s first serious attack, 18-goal top scorer Morgan Whittaker’s cross was cleared but only as far as incoming midfielder Adam Randell, who let fly with a thumping 20-yard first-timer that flew just wide.

Mowatt’s inswinging corner had to be punched off the goal-line by home goalkeeper Conor Hazard.

Hazard made a superb 28th-minute save to keep out Andreas Weimann’s thunderous strike on the bounce after a clever aerial through ball from playmaker Wallace down the right.

The hosts countered with right wing-back Lino Sousa firing over from their next attack.

Home defender Bali Mumba did well to block Weimann’s 36th-minute volley as the ball was looped back into the area from the right by Wallace.

West Brom started the second half as they finished the first – on the attack.

Weimann went close with an angled shot on the run as he latched on to a defence-splitting through ball from Fellows from the right.

The striker let fly with a first-time strike as he swerved to beat his marker, but the shot flew just wide of goal, with the diving Hazard beaten.

Albion hit the post again seven minutes after the break as under-pressure Plymouth failed to clear their lines following another corner.

The ball was headed back across goal by Nathaniel Chalobah, while Wallace, who was just inside the area, sent in a shot that crashed off the foot of the post and across the goal-line.

Just after the hour mark, West Brom’s pressure paid off as unmarked Kipre had time to left-foot the ball home from close range at the far post as Argyle failed to clear John Swift’s corner from the right.

Albion’s Conor Townsend fired in an audacious long-range effort that flew over from 30 yards in the 73rd minute.

In their next meaningful attack, Baggies substitute Johnston fired the away side 2-0 ahead with a brilliant solo effort after 76 minutes.

Johnston cut in from the left, into the box, and beat his marker Matthew Sorinola before thrashing a rising shot past Hazard and into the far corner.

Substitute Grady Diangana fired over from inside the box from Townsend’s 87th-minute cutback as Albion went in search of a third goal.

That came in the first minute of stoppage time as Wallace’s low shot was saved by Hazard, who could not hold onto the ball, and Fellows followed up to slot home.

England are considering unleashing Manu Tuilagi against Scotland amid a warning from Kevin Sinfield that the midfield powerhouse remains a potent force.

Tuilagi is in contention to make his first appearance of the Guinness Six Nations at Murrayfield on Saturday, having been sidelined since December because of a groin tear.

It is the latest of many injury setbacks for the 32-year-old Sale Sharks centre, who broke his hand twice at last autumn’s World Cup, ruling him out of the start of the club season.

Tuilagi’s return would provide the ball-carrying muscle missing from England’s back line – Ollie Lawrence is also an option for the role – and Sinfield insists he still has plenty to offer the national side.

“I would say this without any doubt – don’t write him off yet,” the assistant coach said.

“He’s still got some really good years ahead of him and he’s very much a big part of how we move forward and what we are doing here.

“When you play like he has done for so long, and you are so physical, it is inevitable that at some point in your career you will have a run of injuries.

“What you find with the powerful-type guys, one injury tends to lead into another.”

Also back in contention for the pivotal round-three encounter in Edinburgh is George Martin, the star of England’s heartbreaking World Cup semi-final defeat to South Africa who is fully fit after tweaking his knee.

The 22-year-old enforcer, who can operate at lock or blindside flanker, stood toe to toe with the Springboks and his physicality will be a valuable asset against Scotland.

“Big. Physical. Aggressive. Great ball carrier and he’s one of our better defenders,” Sinfield said.

“In the semi-final he really stood out on the international stage against some of the biggest, nastiest, most aggressive forwards in the world. He was in and amongst it.

“If selected I have no doubt he’ll leave a mark on somebody. He’s already a top player, but he’s going to get better and better.”

England have won only one of their last six meetings with Scotland and visit Murrayfield knowing it is the most hostile of all opposition venues for Red Rose teams.

Fly-half George Ford has braced his side for a “niggly game” – he was targeted in the tunnel by Scotland number eight Ryan Wilson in 2018, sparking a brawl with Owen Farrell – and Sinfield insists frayed tempers are inevitable.

“There’s certainly going to be some niggle. When you’ve got two angry, nasty forward packs wanting to go at each other, there will be some niggle,” he said.

“It’s a Test match, there’s a lot at stake and we haven’t won against them for a number of years, so no doubt there’ll be some niggle.

“There will be some bits thrown at us over the next couple of days that we haven’t planned for or we haven’t quite expected.

“But that’s the nature of being in top-level sport and we meed to make the best of some of the circumstances we are faced with.

“The history is important for us to understand but it won’t change anything – we’re not going up there with any fear.

“We know how dangerous they are, we know they’re a good team, we know they’ve got some great players. But so have we.”

New Port Vale manager Darren Moore suffered his second successive defeat since taking charge when his relegation-threatened side lost 2-0 in their rescheduled League One match at Reading.

In a scrappy first period, Reading produced the best attempt when Vale keeper Connor Ripley had to make a fine save from Kelvin Ehibhatiomhan.

The home side’s constant second-half pressure eventually paid off with late goals from Lewis Wing and Harvey Knibbs.

Vale’s original fixture at the SCL Stadium on January 13 was abandoned after only 16 minutes, with the score at 0-0, when around 1,000 home fans invaded the pitch in protest at Reading owner Dai Yongge.

Andy Crosby, at the helm for the abandoned game, was sacked earlier this month and replaced by former Huddersfield boss Moore, whose first match ended in a 3-2 defeat at Cheltenham on Saturday.

Vale, without a win in their seven previous outings, produced little in the opening half and Reading should have gone in front when a free header from Ehibhatiomhan forced Ripley into an agile close-range stop.

Reading pushed for the winner in the second half, with Vale hanging on grimly, and the ever-alert Ripley was finally beaten when, following a goalmouth scramble in the Vale area, Wing powered home a fierce low drive in the 76th minute.

Seven minutes later, Knibbs pounced after another chaotic scramble for his 13th goal of the season.

Anass Zaroury bagged his first goal for Hull as the Tigers stunned Southampton 2-1 for a fourth straight away win in the Sky Bet Championship.

Burnley loanee Zaroury tapped in before Fabio Carvalho, borrowed from Liverpool, thrashed in Hull’s second to lift them into the play-off places.

Joe Aribo pulled one back for Saints but it was their first home defeat in 12 matches, with their automatic promotion push derailed by back-to-back Tuesday defeats as they slipped down to fourth in the table.

Southampton’s first half peaked in the eighth minute when Joe Rothwell was denied by Ryan Allsop when through one-on-one.

From then on Hull tore the hosts apart with attacking flair, although Saints also brought about their own downfall with some loose passing in midfield and defence.

The Tigers broke the deadlock in the 11th minute when a long ball from Allsop caught Saints off guard. Ryan Giles carried before the ball found its way to Jaden Philogene. The winger’s powerful shot was parried by Gavin Bazunu into the path of Zaroury, who tapped in his first goal in five days short of a year.

Philogene had an effort battered away at the near post and Abdulkadir Omur stabbed wide after Carvalho had scampered down the left as the visitors looked to double their advantage.

Southampton did not learn from Bazunu’s poor pass to Rothwell which allowed Jean Michael Seri to shoot, as 35 seconds later they were two down after Rothwell had stumbled on the ball on the edge of his own area. Philogene plucked the ball off him before allowing Carvalho to sweetly score past Bazunu.

Having not shipped two goals in a match since October, Saints had conceded a double in three of their last four games.

The Tigers tore the disorientated hosts apart in the last 10 minutes of the half. Zaroury lobbed Bazunu but the ball bounced wide, and then the Moroccan swung a shot just wide.

A clearly irate Russell Martin swung the axe on Rothwell, Sekou Mara and Adam Armstrong at half-time – which had been greeted by boos from the home support.

The fresh legs of David Brooks, Che Adams and Joe Aribo saw a slight uptick in performance as Will Smallbone sliced wide following a good move before Ryan Manning aimed for the bottom corner but missed.

Brooks lifted an effort onto the roof of the net but they had to wait until the 88th minute to have a goalscoring chance in the second half. Aribo took it, the Nigeria international squirting in after being teed up by Adams, but it did not prevent a first home loss since September 19.

Bolton came from behind with two goals in 11 second-half minutes to beat Cambridge 2-1 and close in on the League One automatic-promotion places.

Paris Maghoma and Carlos Mendes Gomes both struck to give the Trotters a victory which took them level with second-placed Derby, who have played one game more.

Cambridge had defended solidly for much of the first half, having taken a ninth-minute lead. Maghoma gave the ball away to Sullay Kaikai, whose low cross looped in off Bolton defender Eoin Toal.

Kaikai saw a shot parried by Joel Coleman, while at the other end Jack Stevens made a comfortable save from Nathan Ogbeta’s low effort.

Bolton started the second half on the front foot, and were rewarded when a 52nd-minute corner was flicked into the path of Maghoma, who touched home.

Eleven minutes later Josh Sheehan was given time and space to pick out the run of Mendes Gomes, who volleyed in from close range.

Cambridge forward Lyle Taylor was shown a late red card for an off-the-ball clash with defender Jack Iredale.

Cardiff and Blackburn served up few thrills in a 0-0 draw that provided little optimism either can escape the bottom half of the Sky Bet Championship.

Both teams came into the contest low on confidence after poor form – Cardiff had lost six of their last seven in all competitions, Blackburn had won only once in 11 league outings – and it showed on a night of low quality.

Blackburn, five points above the relegation zone at kick-off, knew victory would take them above Cardiff in the bottom half of the table.

But John Eustace is still waiting for his first win as Rovers boss with one defeat and two draws from three games since succeeding Jon Dahl Tomasson at Ewood Park.

Cardiff also remain in a rut with scoring a clear issue, the Bluebirds having failed to register for the fourth successive home game.

Dimitrios Goutas’ early header counted as an on-target attempt but, in truth, the ball might have lacked the necessary power to cross the line before Aynsley Pears collected.

Dominic Hyam fizzed a shot wide from 25 yards but the Rovers captain was culpable conceding possession in a dangerous area and allowing Karlan Grant to burst down the left.

The on-loan West Brom forward sent over a dangerous ball which Ryan Wintle chose to leave when shooting seemed the wiser option.

Grant remained the biggest threat to breaking the deadlock while Rubin Colwill, benefiting from a rare run of games and making his third successive start, presented the odd touch of quality.

Rovers were stretched after Sondre Tronstad lost possession in midfield and Manolis Siopis released Grant. However, Pears closed down the angle at the near post and pushed the ball to safety.

Cardiff started the second half with purpose and Blackburn were fortunate not to concede.

Pears prevented Josh Bowler from opening the scoring low at his near post and then tipped over a short corner routine found Grant unmarked at the edge of the area.

Kion Etete forced another reaction save from Pears after good work by Colwill, Goutas headed wide and Grant was just off-target with a free-kick.

Rovers were creaking but almost stunned the home side with their first on-target attempt after 64 minutes.

Callum Britain’s effort was blocked by the arm of Goutas, which was raised yet escaped the attention of referee Leigh Doughty.

Play continued in the Cardiff box and goalkeeper Ethan Horvath spread himself superbly to deny substitute Tyrhys Dolan.

Rovers had more impetus after the introduction of Dolan and John Buckley, but that eventually petered out as the encounter drifted towards a tame conclusion.

Erling Haaland came to Manchester City’s rescue as the off-colour champions eked out a nervy 1-0 win over Brentford in the Premier League on Tuesday.

The prolific Norwegian, who spurned a host of chances in a frustrating draw with Chelsea at the weekend, returned to form as he broke the deadlock in a tight encounter at the Etihad Stadium after 71 minutes.

The win lifted City above Arsenal into second in the table, one point behind leaders Liverpool, having played the same number of games in what is shaping up to be a tight title race.

Pep Guardiola’s side dominated the first half, but the second period was proving a frustrating affair until Haaland broke clear of the Bees defence to slot home a fine finish.

Brentford were the last team to beat City at home in November 2022 and, having also tested them in a 3-1 loss earlier this month, again caused them problems.

City, with Kevin De Bruyne on the bench, started the brighter, with Haaland shooting at Mark Flekken after just three minutes and Phil Foden also forcing a save and having another effort blocked.

But Brentford, to their credit, were not content to sit back and did pose a threat on the counter-attack.

Yoane Wissa was denied a chance to shoot by a fine John Stones tackle and Frank Onyeka should have done better than firing straight at Ederson after being played through on goal.

Ivan Toney also shot narrowly over from a free-kick, but the hosts then laid siege to the Bees’ goal and it was remarkable the opening period ended scoreless.

Julian Alvarez twice missed the target before Bernardo Silva planted a header the wrong side of a post from close range.

Manuel Akanji had a good strike from distance tipped over by Flekken and Ruben Dias saw a header pushed away.

Oscar Bobb looked certain to score after skipping around Christian Norgaard, but Ben Mee stretched to clear off the line.

Brentford ended the first half with another chance as an Onyeka header was claimed at full stretch by Ederson and City were surprisingly slow to get going again after the break.

Guardiola tried to enliven proceedings by introducing Jeremy Doku on the hour, but the Bees responded by sending on the abrasive Neal Maupay, who clashed with Kyle Walker in the sides’ recent meeting.

After Foden blazed an attempt well over, it began to look like it might take something special to break the deadlock and that moment duly arrived 19 minutes from time.

Brentford were pushing forward, but their attack was broken up and the ball quickly moved forward, with Rodri finding Alvarez and the Argentinian releasing Haaland.

The Norwegian still had more than half the length of the field to run, but he was quickly into his stride and breezed past a stumbling Kristoffer Ajer before slotting past Flekken from the edge of the area.

The goal was greeted with much relief, but Brentford were not done and Toney shot narrowly over after Dias gave away possession.

City might have had more late on, with Haaland having a header disallowed for offside and Flekken twice saving from Foden.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe has completed a deal to purchase a stake in Manchester United which will grant his Ineos company control of football operations at the club.

The Ineos founder, chairman and chief executive has completed his acquisition of 25 per cent of the Club’s class B shares and 25 per cent of the club’s Class A shares.

The investment from Trawlers Ltd, a company wholly owned by Ratcliffe, received Premier League and Football Association approval last week and was officially confirmed on Tuesday night.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe said: “To become co-owner of Manchester United is a great honour and comes with great responsibility.

“This marks the completion of the transaction, but just the beginning of our journey to take Manchester United back to the top of English, European and world football, with world-class facilities for our fans.

“Work to achieve those objectives will accelerate from today.”

Ratcliffe has agreed to pay US dollars 33 (£26) per share for a quarter of the Class A shares, as well as paying that price for 25 per cent of the Class B shares held by the Glazer family. Each Class B shares confers 10 times as many votes as a Class A share.

The deal was announced on Christmas Eve and the agreement to buy a 27.7 per cent stake in the club also includes investing an additional 300 million US dollars (£237m) into the club’s infrastructure, taking the total investment to £1.25billion.

United co-chairman Joel Glazer said: “I would like to welcome Sir Jim as co-owner and look forward to working closely with him and Ineos Sport to deliver a bright future for Manchester United.”

The billionaire Ratcliffe, who was born in Failsworth in Greater Manchester in October 1952 and says he was “around 10” when he first went to a United match, has been a frequent visitor as Ineos prepares to take responsibility for footballing operations at United.

Ratcliffe also attended the annual memorial for the Munich air disaster at Old Trafford on February 6.

Sir Dave Brailsford, Ineos’ director of sport, has also been a regular presence around the club and is expected to play a key role.

United’s statement last month confirming the shock appointment of Manchester City’s Omar Berrada as chief executive stressed that approach.

The Red Devils have also been strongly linked with Dan Ashworth, who has left his role as sporting director at Newcastle and placed on garden leave by the Tyneside club.

The completion of the deal marks the conclusion of a saga which began back in November 2022 when the Glazers announced plans for a strategic review which could include the sale of the club.

Ratcliffe, along with Qatari businessman Sheikh Jassim, were the front-runners when it became apparent a full sale would be considered, but the latter withdrew last October.

Ratcliffe’s focus shifted to the purchase of a significant minority stake, which has finally been completed on Wednesday.

Mikel Arteta insists Arsenal’s Champions League history is irrelevant and challenged his side to prove they belong at the tournament’s business end as they prepare to face Porto in the last 16.

The Gunners are back in Europe’s elite club competition for the first time in seven years but have failed to progress past this stage since 2010.

Arsenal will be firm favourites at the Estadio do Dragao on Wednesday night as Arteta looks to go further in the Champions League than he ever managed as a player at the club.

“They (the players) know that we have not been in the competition for seven years,” the Spaniard said.

“Obviously some of them were here and they know the story and they know that what happened in the past is irrelevant, it is the challenge and ambition that we have now to go through.”

Asked if he felt it was a mental block that caused Arsene Wenger’s side to fall at the last-16 hurdle so many times, Arteta replied: “Someone called (Lionel) Messi was another obstacle as well!

“And Bayern Munich that we faced twice. This competition is what it is. Individual quality is extremely important. It comes down to details and you need your players at your best when the occasion arises.”

Arteta’s young squad had very little Champions League experience heading into a group stage they dominated, winning four games and progressing as winners with a fixture to spare.

Now the knockout stages present another chance for both manager and team to prove they belong at this level.

“We don’t have the experience, that’s the reality – 95 per cent of these players haven’t played this competition, they haven’t played the last 16.

“I haven’t (managed at this stage). But they have so much energy and enthusiasm to play well and that’s our desire and how we’re going to play the game.

“It’s great. We have earned the right to be here. It’s been seven years since we’ve been at the top table for these kind of matches and 14 years since we were able to go to the next stage.

“That’s the challenge. We know what is ahead of us, but we are very excited to face it and to go for it with full belief, that’s for sure.”

An extra incentive for Arsenal to banish past ghosts is the prospect of going all the way to just their second Champions League final, with Wembley playing host to the showpiece event this year.

“It should be incredible to have that feeling to lift that cup, in London, the first of June. It is there,” added Arteta.

“It is in our minds. It is a dream, but there are a lot of things you have to earn the right to do before that and tomorrow we have a big obstacle ahead of us. We are really looking forward to it.”

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