Fulham boss Marco Silva had no doubt his side got what they deserved after snatching a dramatic stoppage-time win at Manchester United on Saturday.

Alex Iwobi struck in the 97th minute as the Cottagers responded to an 89th-minute equaliser from Harry Maguire to claim a stunning 2-1 Premier League success at Old Trafford.

It was the London side’s first win at the ground since 2003 and, after creating the majority of the chances throughout the game and taking a 65th-minute lead through Calvin Bassey, Silva felt it was merited.

Silva said: “Definitely, it is clear in my opinion the better team on the pitch won the game. We are the team that created the most chances, that played better and tried to win most of the moments of the game.

“We created a very good number of chances in the first half. They had two or three very good moments as well but the way we started the second half, the first 30 minutes, the way we controlled the game against Man Utd at Old Trafford, that is not easy to do.

“We scored and after came the normal reaction from Man Utd, the crowd played a big part in their reaction, and we conceded a bit of an unlucky goal.

“In that moment we showed a strong mentality. It was first a moment for us not to concede the second as Old Trafford was on fire but we showed a strong mentality and even before the 2-1 we had a strong chance from Rodri (Muniz).

“It was a really well-deserved three points and the best team won.”

Fulham’s success punctured some of the optimism that has swept into Old Trafford this week following the completion of Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s partial takeover.

The defeat was United’s 10th of the campaign in the Premier League, ending a four-game winning streak, and was a setback to their hopes of reaching the top four.

Manager Erik Ten Hag, however, dismissed the suggestion his team’s Champions League hopes had been dented and highlighted the overall picture.

The Dutchman said: “After these two months I can’t go with that approach. We have gone lately very good but now we have some setbacks.

“Today we could have won this game. We should have won this game as the team showed great character.

“We had two slow starts in both halves, definitely. It was a big loss to lose Casemiro (to injury), we lost some stability in the team and conceded a goal that is very avoidable, but then fought back in the game.

“I have to credit the team – they showed great character. We went for the win but by the end we let them slip away.

“But after one defeat you have to see the bigger picture and the bigger picture looks very good.

“We have to catch up in certain positions and get the injuries back, then we will be more in balance and also strengthen the squad in the transfer windows.

“You see there are many good players coming up and real high potential players, so definitely we are going in the right direction. When we have the players available, we have a very good team.”

Alex Iwobi struck a dramatic stoppage-time winner as Fulham snatched a rare 2-1 win at Manchester United in the Premier League on Saturday.

The former Everton and Arsenal midfielder finished off a counter-attack in the seventh minute of time added on moments after Harry Maguire looked to have salvaged a point for United.

Maguire had pounced on a rebound in the 89th minute, cancelling out a 65th-minute strike from Fulham’s Calvin Bassey.

United looked to be finishing the stronger as they pushed for a late winner but they were caught out by Iwobi, who secured his side’s first victory at Old Trafford since 2003.

On the balance of play, it was a win Fulham deserved and a result that punctured some of the optimism brought into United this week following the completion of Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s partial takeover.

United’s tame performance for large part of the game underlined how much work they have to do to make ambitions of knocking Manchester City and Liverpool “off their perch” become reality.

United were slow to get going and Fulham, despite the absence of the influential Joao Palhinha through suspension, made most the running.

Andreas Pereira had their first opportunity with a weak effort which was easily dealt with by Andre Onana before Iwobi failed to make clean contact with another chance from the edge of the area.

Pereira played in Iwobi for a clearer opening on 18 minutes but he missed the target trying to guide into the bottom corner.

United survived again when Onana saved a powerful header from Rodrigo Muniz following a corner and Sasa Lukic was unable to get to the rebound.

United eventually got a sight of goal after Fulham struggled to clear a free-kick and Alejandro Garnacho attempted to curl a shot into the far corner through a crowded box but Antonee Robinson headed clear.

Diogo Dalot went even closer with a long-range effort which beat Bernd Leno but clipped the outside of the post.

Fulham responded well and hit the woodwork themselves moments later as Muniz turned Victor Lindelof in the area and thumped a shot against the upright.

The visitors turned defence into attack again just before the break, this time after Marcus Rashford, playing centrally in the absence of Rasmus Hojlund, went through on goal but took the ball too wide.

Fulham raced upfield and fed Pereira, but his curling attempt was pushed away by Onana.

In a lively end to the opening period, Garnacho then forced a save from Leno after cutting in from the left.

United suffered a blow early in the second half when Casemiro was forced off after clash of heads with Harrison Reed while manager Erik Ten Hag also removed youngster Omari Forson after a quiet full debut.

Scott McTominay and Christian Eriksen were sent on to increase the energy levels but it was Fulham who continued to dictate the pace.

Reed almost found the net when his cross-cum-shot had to be palmed over by Onana.

They capitalised from the resulting set-piece as Pereira’s cross found Bassey, and he rifled his first goal for the club into the roof of the net after his initial volley was blocked.

Fulham threatened more with Reed firing narrowly over and Harry Wilson bending a chance just wide.

United roused themselves late on and Maguire reacted quickly after a Bruno Fernandes shot was saved but Iwobi had the final say.

Erik ten Hag insisted Rasmus Hojlund’s injury need not throw Manchester United’s season off course as the club’s failure to sign another striker in January once again came under the spotlight.

Hojlund will miss Saturday’s match against Fulham and the midweek FA Cup tie at Nottingham Forest, and is also expected to be out for next Sunday’s derby against Manchester City with a muscle injury that could see him sidelined for up to three weeks and potentially miss five games.

It is a significant blow given Hojlund’s electric form of late – the 21-year-old Dane has scored seven goals in his last six appearances for United – and leaves Ten Hag short of options in attack, with Anthony Martial out until April following surgery on his groin.

But Ten Hag said Hojlund was not solely responsible for United’s recent uptick in goals.

“(Hojlund) was lately very important,” he said. “But main man? I don’t see it that way. Because I think especially (Alejandro) Garnacho is playing very strong in the last games…

“‘Rashy’ (Marcus Rashford) is capable. (He has only scored five but) he can score. Lately, in our last games the frontline is an absolute threat, they score. Is it Rasmus Hojlund only? No, it’s Garnacho, it’s also Rashford, it’s also Scott McTominay. Bruno (Fernandes) can score a goal.

“What gives me the confidence, in autumn the frontline wasn’t scoring, they were not even a threat. In this moment they are in very good form and a threat continually. I am quite confident that even when Rasmus Hojlund is not there, it will go on.

“We can line up a frontline which is really strong. I don’t think there is a frontline where the opponent thinks, ‘pfft, that is easy’. No, they will fear our frontline I am sure.”

Ten Hag has previously opened up on his desire to sign a striker last month, something United were unable to do due to concerns regarding the Premier League’s profit and sustainability rules.

But on Friday the manager was questioned about the decision to spend £60million on Mason Mount last summer despite the relative depth in midfield, rather than invest up front given that Martial has regularly struggled to stay fit for a full season.

“You are a football manager?” he replied.

“If it was that easy… I already said (about) the money. First of all, striker options are the most difficult. Especially on our level. We had two strikers.

“I get that for Martial, but he has done for us last season great things. He is also on high payment in this club. So when you bring another one in, you strike him out. So there are all arguments not to do it.

“Then there is Marcus Rashford, who can play very good from front position. So actually we had three strikers in our squad to fill in.”

Ten Hag said it was “naive” to suggest signing another striker would have been so straightforward.

“Strikers are not cheap, and when you have three strikers in your squad and you bring a number four in, that means the prospective for the others will get short,” he said.

“We thought we had options, but when it develops during the season, I wanted to bring in a striker in the winter, but it was not possible. And already we had our problems with FFP (Financial Fair Play) in the summer of course.”

Pep Guardiola has bluntly responded to Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s aim to knock Manchester City “off their perch” by pointing out he speaks “the truth”.

Ratcliffe completed his purchase of a 27.7 per cent in Manchester United this week and immediately set out his ambitions to restore the club to the top of the English and European game.

He did this by reprising the language of Sir Alex Ferguson, who similarly pledged to rein in Liverpool in his early days as manager at Old Trafford.

United have won just one trophy compared to City’s 14 in the past six seasons and Guardiola feels Ratcliffe’s acceptance of the Blues’ current pre-eminent status is the Red Devils’ first step towards a fightback.

The City manager said: “It’s the truth! As (soon) as the teams admit it, they will be closer to us.

“If they want to deny it for things that are not the reality then it’s their problem. It’s not our problem.

“When I’ve been below teams I’ve always admired them and thought about what we need to do to be close, to challenge them.

“If they want to be judged on things they are comfortable with for one day they will not arrive where we are now.

“When we were below and United were winning, we were watching them, admiring them. We wanted to learn from them.

“The period of Sir Alex Ferguson – the generation with Roy Keane, David Beckham, Gary Neville – and all those big, big players, Rio Ferdinand – I’m pretty sure City admired and thought ‘we want to be there’. Now we are there.

“That’s why, for these type of comments, that I have the feeling that they will be back.”

While Guardiola now expects United to improve under the guidance of Ratcliffe, who has taken control of footballing operations at Old Trafford, he insisted it was not something that concerned him.

The Spaniard said: “It’s not about (being) worried. I’m pretty sure with Sir Jim Ratcliffe and the other people that United are going to take a step forwards.

“I feel that they know exactly what they have to do, appoint the people they need to appoint with their experience in the business world to make projects better.

“But that is normal. It’s not just United. All the teams want it. We want to be there and as long as I’m here, we will try to be there again.

“What I want is Man City, my team, being there. The rest, I don’t care.”

Second-placed City travel to Bournemouth in the Premier League on Saturday with a chance to cut the gap to leaders Liverpool to one point in what is their game in hand.

Playmaker Kevin De Bruyne was not risked in the midweek win over Brentford due to what Guardiola described as “niggles”.

He would not confirm if he would return this weekend but said he was “pretty sure he will travel”.

Guardiola said: “He’s good. He’s not injured. He’s better but I don’t know if he’s 100 per cent. I think we took a good decision not to take a risk.”

Manchester United striker Rasmus Hojlund is due to miss next weekend’s derby against Manchester City after suffering a muscle injury in a significant blow for manager Erik ten Hag.

The in-form 21-year-old, who had scored seven goals in his last six appearances for United, will sit out Saturday’s Premier League match against Fulham and Wednesday’s FA Cup fifth-round tie at Nottingham Forest.

United said the Denmark international is expected to miss two to three weeks, a timeframe that would also rule him out of the trip to the Etihad Stadium a week on Sunday.

“It’s a small injury, two to three weeks,” Ten Hag said in Friday’s press conference. “That’s what happened, that is the risk playing high intensity, training. It’s not a big injury but he has to wait now for two, three weeks.”

Hojlund’s injury – which comes in the same week that Luke Shaw was ruled out for several months – leaves Ten Hag short of options in attack with Anthony Martial already sidelined until April following a groin operation and it is likely that Marcus Rashford will be asked to play in a central role.

Ten Hag was speaking for the first time since Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s purchase of a minority stake in the club was ratified and after the billionaire gave a wide-ranging interview in midweek in which he laid out ambitious plans to knock the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool “off their perch”.

Ten Hag said he and Ratcliffe, whose Ineos group have taken control of footballing operations following the deal, are on the same page.

“We speak a lot, we have many conversations with him and with Dave Brailsford (Ineos director of sport) about this club, about the team about the structures,” he said. “We are very aligned. Their ambitions fit with the ambitions I have, with the ambitions I had when I came in.

“We are in that project now. For me, I’m 18, 19 months in and I see (things) go in the right direction. We had setbacks in the second season but you see the team coming, you see the squad progressing and developing.”

And the Dutchman denied that he would find himself under increased pressure given the expectations that Ratcliffe will have for the club. United have won four in a row in the league but remain five points adrift of the top four.

“No more pressure because we have the same ambition, we have the same targets,” Ten Hag said. “I see the process and I see this team is developing, it’s progressing.

“I see we have now also the right age across the squad, we can make that even stronger and they will grow and we will do everything in our power. There is strong competition and there are reasons behind it.

“We still have to catch up in the moment where every game is a final for us because we have to be in the Champions League. The players want this, the team want this but we have to believe.”

Injuries, however, could be the thing that derails United’s bid to break into the top four.

Hojlund and Shaw have joined an injury list that already includes Martial, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Lisandro Martinez, Mason Mount and Tyrell Malacia.

“Of course that is an issue but other clubs have this and we have to deal with this,” Ten Hag said. “I feel we can deal with it better but still it’s an issue with the depth of the squad, and the squad have to prove it.”

Manchester United have received a blow with in-form striker Rasmus Hojlund expected to be out for between two and three weeks with a muscle injury.

That means the 21-year-old will definitely sit out Saturday’s Premier League match against Fulham, and almost certainly miss the Manchester derby on March 3.

Hojlund has been in a rich vein of scoring form, netting eight goals in his last eight appearances for United. His brace against Luton last Sunday also made him the youngest player ever to score in six consecutive Premier League games.

A United statement on Friday read: “Rasmus Hojlund has suffered a muscle injury which is expected to rule him out for two to three weeks. Wishing you a speedy recovery, Rasmus.”

The Denmark international’s absence will leave Erik ten Hag short of options in attack with Anthony Martial already missing, and is a second significant setback this week following news that Luke Shaw will miss several months with a leg problem.

Former Manchester United striker Andrew Cole believes it could take Sir Jim Ratcliffe longer than three years to turn the club into genuine Premier League title challengers.

Ratcliffe has laid out his plans to restore United to their former glory at the top of English football within “two or three seasons” after becoming their co-owner earlier this week.

Cole, who won five Premier League titles, two FA Cups and the Champions League during his eight seasons as a player with United, told the PA news agency: “It’s going to take time.

“It could possibly take longer than three years, we have to be very honest.

“We’re what, 11 years in now (since United were last crowned Premier League champions)?

“If we look at ourselves now, we’re still in the same position and if he’s going to turn it around in three years he’s going to have to go some. But change is good.”

Cole, attending an event held by United’s official hydration partner WOW HYDRATE, said it has taken both Liverpool and Manchester City “six or seven years to lay their foundations”.

“They’ve had managers in place for the long term and have bought well in the transfer market. That’s what we have to do,” he said.

“As long as Pep Guardiola stays at City it’s going to be very difficult for anyone to beat them to the Premier League title.

“I think it could change at Liverpool due to the fact that Jurgen Klopp leaves at the end of the season.

“They could find themselves in the same position as Manchester United are in, starting all over again, new manager, fresh ideas.”

United won their first major trophy since 2017 last season under manager Erik ten Hag, but Cole is undecided on whether the Dutchman is the right man for the job.

“You’re only the right man if you keep winning football matches,” the former United forward said. “Once you don’t win football matches, you’re not the right man. Football will never change.”

Five straight wins in all competitions have eased the pressure on Ten Hag, with £72million summer signing Rasmus Hojlund playing a key role.

Hojlund has scored eight goals in his last eight appearances after a slow start to his United career and Cole is delighted for the 21-year-old Denmark striker.

“A lot was expected of him, but it was always going to take time in this United team,” Cole added. “But fair play to him. He took a bit of flak, but he never hid.

“A lot is expected of a young man to come in and be Manchester United’s main goalscorer.

“Many players have come before him to Old Trafford and failed and I like the way he’s gone about his business recently.”

What the papers say

Manchester United investor Sir Jim Ratcliffe wants to wait until the end of the season before deciding on the future of manager Erik ten Hag, reports the Daily Star.

Meanwhile, Liverpool knocked back an approach from Chelsea for forward Darwin Nunez last summer, says The Times.

According to the Independent, Sporting Lisbon manager Ruben Amorim is a leading contender to replace Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp if they miss the chance to secure Xabi Alonso .

Social media round-upPlayers to watch

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg: Tottenham do not expect the midfielder to stay at the club this summer, with several Serie A sides interested in the 28-year-old, writes Football Insider.

Amadou Onana: Arsenal are eager to sign the Everton midfielder this summer, reports TEAMtalk.

Oscar Bobb: Manchester City are close to locking the Norway striker into a new long-term contract, says the Daily Mail.

Trafford Council is looking forward to working with Manchester United co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe on his ambitious plans to regenerate the south of the city.

Ratcliffe set out two routes to providing United with a stadium which he feels would befit the club’s status – either a redevelopment of Old Trafford or building a brand-new stadium which would be a northern rival to Wembley.

Ratcliffe sees the extra revenue generated from either option as a key factor in helping United consistently challenge north-west rivals Manchester City and Liverpool for domestic and European honours, having vowed on Wednesday to “knock both of them off their perch”.

He anticipated redevelopment would cost in the region of £1billion, while he estimated a new stadium and regeneration project would be £2billion. He saw no reason why state funding should not partially cover the cost of the bigger project, which he believes could transform the area around the stadium.

United’s existing leadership have been working alongside Trafford Council on its Trafford Wharfside development plan, and council leader Tom Ross was excited by Ratcliffe’s vision.

“We’ve got two visions that are coming together – a potential brand new stadium as discussed by Sir Jim, and also the vision we have for housing regeneration, bringing this area back to life,” Ross told BBC Radio Manchester on Thursday.

“There’s a lot of excitement in Manchester United about this as a key partner of ours. We look forward to working together to deliver those plans.”

Ratcliffe said on Wednesday that a task force – which could include former United defender Gary Neville – was being formed to consider the feasibility of the new stadium project. The PA news agency understands Trafford Council expects to be invited to join too.

United have been urged to actively involve local residents and small business owners in their plans as they consider how to proceed.

Dr Tom Bason, a sports legacy and football finance expert at Coventry University, highlighted research which found such groups had not been properly consulted in previous stadium-led regeneration projects, and ended up being priced out of the area.

“(Proper consultation) is the sort of thing that needs to happen from the start otherwise you do end up with this sort of displacement that we saw around the Olympic Stadium (in east London),” Dr Bason told PA.

“It’s not always intentional, but if you see house prices or rent increases going up 20, 30, 40 per cent, although you might not be kicked out because your house or flat is getting knocked down, you might still have to leave that area because you can’t afford to live there any more.

“The same happens with businesses – multinationals start coming in, you start to get chains of coffee shops rather than a local café for example.

“It’s not always intentional but if these sort of local community groups, residents and businesses aren’t part of the process, it is what happens every time.”

Manchester United co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe has set out his vision for bringing some of the Eric Cantona glamour and swagger back to Old Trafford.

The 71-year-old Ineos founder and chairman wants the club he has supported since the age of six to be seriously challenging their “noisy” north-west neighbours Manchester City and Liverpool for domestic and European titles within three seasons, and “knock them both off their perch”.

In a wide-ranging briefing, Ratcliffe also:

:: Outlined his hope to either redevelop Old Trafford at a cost of around £1billion, or build a new £2billion stadium with state support that could host England matches, FA Cup finals and Champions League finals.

:: Admitted Dan Ashworth would be “a very good addition” to the Manchester United leadership as sporting director and said it would be “absurd” if he remained on gardening leave after his departure from Newcastle.

:: Pledged that a fresh decision would be taken on Mason Greenwood’s future.

:: Joked about whether Qatari businessman Sheikh Jassim, his long-time rival for full control of United, even existed.

Ratcliffe, who by the end of the year will hold a 28.9 per cent stake in United and whose Ineos company now controls football operations at Old Trafford, conducted the interview with a bust wearing a United number seven shirt stationed behind him, collar turned up in the fashion of the club’s hero of the 1990s Eric Cantona.

“(Cantona) was the catalyst for change in Sir Alex Ferguson’s era … and then that sort of kickstarted everything off. He was the sort of talisman,” Ratcliffe said.

“There has always been a bit of glamour attached to Manchester United which has been lacking a bit in the last few years. You’ve had George Best, Bobby Charlton, Eric the King for a while.

“At the end of the day we are in the entertainment business. So that’s why you don’t want to watch bland football or characterless football.

“And to be honest, since Christmas, with the young lads, they have played some fantastic football.

“There have been some great matches. I can’t remember many matches at the beginning of the season I was really excited by but since Christmas we have played some really good football and there has been a bit of glamour attached to some of these footballers on the pitch, and we have really enjoyed it.

“The three young lads (Rasmus Hojlund, Alejandro Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo) sitting on the hoarding at the side – that was a good picture. So I think that’s the ‘Eric’ point really. We are cognizant of the fact you do need a bit of glamour in this.”

Ratcliffe says improving the club’s record on recruitment is “top of the list” of things to get right, and publicly stated his club’s interest in Dan Ashworth, who has been placed on gardening leave by Newcastle after expressing his desire to leave the Tyneside club.

“I think it’d be a very good addition to Manchester United, but he (Ashworth) needs to decide whether he’s going to make that jump,” Ratcliffe said.

“We’ve obviously had words with Newcastle. They clearly would be disappointed to lose Dan. I understand why they would be disappointed to lose Dan but but then you can’t equally criticise Dan because it is a transient industry.

“So we’ll have to see how it unfolds.”

Ratcliffe said it would be “a bit silly” if it took £20million to secure Ashworth’s services, and added: “What I do think is completely absurd is suggesting that a man who’s really good at his job, sits in his garden for one and a half years.”

Also key to the transformation as Ratcliffe sees it is a redeveloped Old Trafford or a new stadium built partially with state support.

Ratcliffe said a taskforce would be set up to look at the feasibility of the latter option and agreed former Manchester United defender Gary Neville would be an “obvious” person to include on it.

Ratcliffe sees no issue with one of the world’s richest clubs in United seeking state support for such a project.

“The people in the north pay their taxes like the people in the south pay their taxes,” he said.

“But where’s the national stadium for football? It’s in the south. Where’s the national stadium for rugby? It’s in the south. Where’s the national stadium for tennis? It’s in the south. Where’s the national concert stadium? It’s the O2, it’s in the south. Where’s the Olympic Village? It’s in the south.

“All of this talk about levelling up and the Northern Powerhouse… where is the stadium in the north? How many Champions Leagues has the north-west won and how many Champions Leagues has London won? The answer to that is the north-west has won 10 – Liverpool have won more than us – and London has won two.

“Where do you have to go if you get to the semi-final of the FA Cup and you’re a northern club? You have to schlep down to London, don’t you?

“People in the north pay their taxes and there is an argument that you could think about a more ambitious project in the north which would be fitting for England, for the Champions League final or the FA Cup final and act as a catalyst to regenerate southern Manchester, which has got quite significant history in the UK.”

Sir Jim Ratcliffe says Manchester United will make a fresh decision on the future of forward Mason Greenwood and will “justify it one way or the other”.

Greenwood, who is on loan at Spanish side Getafe, was suspended by United on January 30, 2022 over allegations relating to a young woman after images and videos were posted online.

The now 22-year-old faced charges including attempted rape and assault but the Crown Prosecution Service announced in February last year that the case had been discontinued.

Reports last year that United were planning to retain him following an internal investigation were met by public outcry and Ratcliffe acknowledges that a decision will have to be made when Greenwood returns about what happens next – but insists nothing has been finalised yet.

“It’s quite clear we have to make a decision. There is no decision that’s been made,” Ratcliffe said at a media briefing to mark the completion of his purchase of a minority stake in United which delegates control of football operations to his company Ineos.

Asked asked if the Greenwood situation would be a “fresh decision”, Ratcliffe said: “Yeah we will. Absolutely. We will make a decision, and we will justify it one way or the other.”

Ratcliffe added: “He’s on loan obviously, but he’s not the only one – we’ve got one or two footballers that we have to deal with and we have to make a decision on, so we will do that.

“The process will be – understand the facts, not the hype, and then try and come to a fair decision on the basis of values, which is basically: is he a good guy or not?

“Could he play sincerely for Manchester United, (play) well and we’d be comfortable with it and the fans would be comfortable with it.”

Greenwood is under contract at United until the summer of 2025.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe has jokingly questioned whether his Manchester United takeover rival Sheikh Jassim even exists after completing the purchase of a minority stake in the Red Devils.

Ratcliffe and Qatari businessman Sheikh Jassim were the two public bidders looking to take full control of United from the Glazer family which has owned the club since 2005, before Ratcliffe’s focus switched to securing a smaller stake.

His Ineos company now controls football operations as part of a deal which will see him own 28.9 per cent of the club by the year’s end.

Reflecting on the long road to the completion of the deal, Ratcliffe admitted he did find it strange that there was an apparent lack of interest in buying United in comparison to when Chelsea came onto the market in 2022 and that his main rival for full control was someone who “still nobody has ever seen”.

“The Glazers never met him. I’m not sure he exists,” he joked.

“It was extraordinary. That (apparent lack of wider interest) was confounding. There’s no comparison between Chelsea and Manchester United, the scale of Manchester United is incomparable with any of the London clubs to be honest with you.”

Asked whether he thought he may have been bidding alone rather than against Sheikh Jassim, Ratcliffe said: “They (the Qatari bid) were obviously there and there was a whole host of people on the team, on the squad. I didn’t ever meet them. But it was a very odd affair.”

Representatives who worked with Sheikh Jassim during the period of his interest in United have been contacted for comment by the PA news agency.

Ratcliffe was asked about whether he held a long-term ambition to ultimately gain full control of United and whether he was concerned that ‘drag-along’ rights held by the Glazers which could force him to sell his stake in the event they wished to sell.

“There are all sorts of scenarios. We might get hit by an asteroid,” he said.

“There have been lots of opportunities for people to come in and buy Manchester United in the last 12 months – why is it all going to change?”

Asked if taking full control was his ultimate aim, Ratcliffe said: “The ultimate aim is just for Manchester United to play really good football. It’s not about what am I going to do in five years’ time?”

Sir Jim Ratcliffe admits Dan Ashworth would make a “very good addition” to Manchester United as sporting director and says it would be “absurd” if he was forced to serve an extended period of garden leave.

Ashworth has been placed on leave by Newcastle after informing the club that he had chosen to leave his role as their sporting director.

Manchester United co-owner Ratcliffe has confirmed United’s interest in Ashworth and hoped a sensible solution could be worked out.

“I think Dan Ashworth is clearly one of the top sporting directors in the world. I’ve no doubt he’s a very, very capable person,” Ratcliffe said on Wednesday after completing his purchase of a minority stake in United which will rise to 28.9 per cent by year’s end.

“And he’s interested in the Manchester United job because it’s probably the biggest sporting director job in the world just now, with the biggest challenge.

“It would be different if you were sporting director at Manchester City, because you’re just maintaining a level. With Manchester United, you’ve got quite a significant building job.

“I think it’d be a very good addition to Manchester United, but he needs to decide whether he’s going to make that jump.

“We’ve obviously had words with Newcastle. They clearly would be disappointed to lose Dan. I understand why they would be disappointed to lose Dan but but then you can’t equally criticise Dan because it is a transient industry.

“So we’ll have to see how it unfolds.”

Ratcliffe said it would be “a bit silly” if it took £20million to secure Ashworth’s services, and added: “What I do think is completely absurd is suggesting that a man who’s really good at his job, sits in his garden for one and a half years.

“I mean, that’s completely stupid. We had a very grown-up conversation with Manchester City about Omar (Berrada, who will become United’s new chief executive). Things calmed up and we sorted it out very amicably.

“They could see why Omar wanted to take on that challenge and they didn’t want to stand in his way.

“You look at (Manchester City manager) Pep (Guardiola) with his footballers, if you’ve got a footballer that doesn’t want to play for Manchester City, then he says ‘fine, you can leave’ but he doesn’t tell him, ‘I want you to sit in the garden for four and a half years’.

“That’s not the way the UK works, or at least not the way the law works in the UK, either. It supports a period of time which is sensible and fair, but not silly periods of time.”

Ratcliffe admitted recruitment was “top of the list” in achieving his goal of returning to the pinnacle of the English and European game within three years.

“I think recruitment in the modern game is critical,” he said.

“Manchester United have clearly spent a lot of money but they haven’t done as well as some other clubs. So when I was talking about being best in class in all aspects of football, recruitment is clearly top of the list.”

Wayne Rooney says he would walk to Manchester City if Pep Guardiola asked him to become his assistant.

Rooney became Manchester United’s record scorer during 13 years at Old Trafford from 2004, scoring 253 goals in 559 appearances for the Red Devils.

The former England captain was linked with a move to City after handing in a transfer request at United in 2010.

Rooney eventually patched up his differences with manager Sir Alex Ferguson and stayed at Old Trafford for another seven years.

But, less than two months after his 15-game spell as Birmingham manager came to an end, the 38-year-old admits he would be open to the idea of working on the blue side of Manchester.

“It depends (on whether I’d ever be an assistant) – if Pep Guardiola comes in and asks me to be his assistant, you’d walk there,” Rooney told the Stick to Football podcast.

“You see what (Mikel) Arteta is doing now (at Arsenal) and I strongly believe a lot of that is from learning what Guardiola was doing, and so it depends on what the situation is.

“For me, the best manager is Pep and you look at how he adapts – how they (City) are playing now is not the same as how they were playing four years ago.

“He keeps making these subtle changes and then you see everyone else trying to do the same. They also work harder than anyone else.”

City, the English, European and FIFA World Club Cup champions, are 12 points better off in the Premier League than sixth-placed United, and Rooney says it is “frustrating” watching his former team under Erik ten Hag.

He said: “There’s talent in there. But I just think there’s a mindset that needs to change.

“You watch some games and I think, ‘Really good’. But then all of a sudden it’s like a switch that’s been flicked.

“They can go from being really good to really bad. There’s a lack of consistency.”

Rooney has been linked to a possible switch to boxing, with the self-confessed fight fan confirming there have been talks to get him in the ring.

He also expressed an interest in becoming a lawyer during a recent media interview, saying he had applied to Nottingham University to study criminal law when he was at Derby.

Rooney laughed on the podcast when recalling telling lawyers what to ask during his wife Coleen’s ‘Wagatha Christie’ libel trial with Rebekah Vardy in 2022.

But Rooney insists his focus is firmly on returning to management after spells at Derby, Major League Soccer side DC United and Birmingham.

“It’s all experience – I’m only 38, I’ve had three managerial jobs but I’ve got quite a bit of experience to lean on,” said Rooney.

“If you look at the three clubs I’ve managed, going in at Derby under their circumstances in administration, DC United who were bottom of the league when I went over there, and now Birmingham, who over the past 10 years have been a mess.

“I want to focus on getting back into management. The main thing for me is to completely cut out what I’ve done as a player and almost start again as a manager.

“Of course, my playing experience will help me, but I’m right at the bottom from a managerial point of view, and I want to work my way up.

“I’m not relying on what I’ve done as a player to get me into places that I shouldn’t be.

“I want to get back into managing and I want to prove myself – whether that’s League Two, League One or Championship.”

Wayne Rooney ended speculation over his future to sign a new five-and-a-half-year contract at Manchester United on this day in 2014.

The forward had been linked with a move away from Old Trafford months earlier after Sir Alex Ferguson retired and was replaced by David Moyes.

With only 18 months to go on his deal, Rooney agreed fresh terms until the summer of 2019 and made clear his ambition to break Sir Bobby Charlton’s record of 249 goals for the Red Devils.

 

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On a new contract worth up to £300,000 a week, Rooney would spend another three seasons at United and finish with 253 goals from 559 appearances.

The attacker broke Charlton’s record on January 21, 2017 with a free-kick at Stoke and a week later was presented with a commemorative Golden Boot to acknowledge him becoming the club’s all-time leading goalscorer.

After five Premier League titles, three League Cups, plus solitary success in the Champions League, Europa League, Club World Cup and FA Cup, Rooney left Old Trafford to return to boyhood side Everton.

His second spell at Goodison Park was short-lived and, after stints with DC United in the United States and at Derby in the Championship, Rooney retired from professional football at the start of 2021 to take over as manager of the Rams.

The former England captain also bettered Charlton’s record of 49 goals for his country and finished with 53 from 120 appearances, but was overtaken by Harry Kane last year.

Rooney was most recently manager of Birmingham.

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