The day Knighton stunned United
MALCOLM Glazer has never stepped inside Old Trafford. His family remain inconspicuously in the VIP seats on their occasional match day visits and shun publicity. So it is hard to imagine that 20 years ago on Wednesday a would-be United owner donned a training kit and performed a ball juggling act before smashing a shot into the Stretford End in front of 47,000 fans. If you thought that only the Premier League and Sky era encouraged the headline hogging chairmen out of the woodwork then think again. Two decades ago today a certain businessman named Michael Knighton, a former headmaster and university graduate who had made millions out of the 80s property boom, was the 'knight' in shining armour who was going to take United on a glory ride. Martin Edwards, the chairman at the time, owned more than 50 per cent of United's shares but could no longer afford to plough his own money into the club. Stalwart Red Edwards had a vision for Old Trafford to become a super stadium. The Stretford End was in need of a major revamp if that plan was to be realised but he didn't have the cash to set the idea in motion. Stadium plans Knighton came along in 1989 and agreed to buy Edwards' shares for £10m and guaranteed a further £10m for the redevelopment of the famous stand. On the eve of United's opening match of the 89-90 season the purchase was agreed and a press conference was called. Knighton was described as 'shy and quiet' at his introduction. You would hardly have thought it 24 hours later when the new chief and one-time Everton apprentice and Coventry City youth player wowed the fans with his keepy-uppy act. The Reds support adored this new-style owner. In a match soon after his pre-Arsenal solo exhibition United took 15,000 to Derby's Baseball Ground and Knighton attempted to shake hands with every one of them. But Martin Edwards and the Old Trafford board soon began to get cold feet as doubts grew and eventually the entertainer's backers pulled out. A huge question mark surrounded Knighton's ability to fund his takeover. Behind the scenes the club and media mogul Robert Maxwell piled pressure on Knighton and in the October following his bizarre Stretford End show he had to back away from the purchase. He aborted the contract he claimed was watertight but agreed a deal that saw him become an Old Trafford director - a post he held for three years. Knighton continued to insist that the funds were in place to buy the club but his 15-minutes of soccer fame and subsequent 55-day takeover wrangle made him eventually become a figure of ridicule. However, he was something of a visionary having foreseen in 1989 the potential for United to become a multi-million pound brand and even predicting 20 years ago that the club would be worth £150m in the future. He was effectively laughed out of town for that comment. If the Reds were put on the market now it would probably cost a billion to buy them off the Glazers! TUNE in to Real Radio today on 105.4fm to listen to the Michael Knighton story. What are your memories of Knighton? Have your say.
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