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United hopes for Reds faces all round as Europe left in right royal mess

So Manchester United - where did it all start to go wrong? In the last three minutes of the last game of last season, Frank Kane reckons. That's when the Reds officially became the second-best team in England and forced some serious rethinking by its American owners, the Glazer family.

So Manchester United - where did it all start to go wrong? In the last three minutes of the last game of last season, I reckon.

That's when the Reds officially became the second-best team in England and forced some serious rethinking by its American owners, the Glazer family.

The debt-strained family decided just after those final three minutes, when Manchester City won the Premier League title, to go for an initial public offering in New York. They had previously considered Hong Kong and Singapore but rejected those options because of the rigour of their regulatory regimes.

The London Stock Exchange, of course, was out of the question for a Mancunian football club, even if owned by international investors like the Glazers, who would normally have loved a London slot.

New York is a great market, the font of 20th century capitalism, but it has some strange rules, such as the one that says you can give different classes of shares different weightings.

So the Glazers can sell 10 per cent of United on Wall Street, raising US$300 million (Dh1.1 billion) in new cash and valuing the club at an eye-boggling $3bn, while still retaining 98 per cent of voting rights.

Investors will be aware of all that and the fact that they won't get a dividend - and that their investment is on a rating much the same as Google was a decade ago.But they will probably still go for it. Man United really is the Facebook of sport.

One investor who may not make his intentions immediately known regarding the IPO is Jim O'Neill, the superstar economist of Goldman Sachs and a legendary United fan.

In his latest Viewpoints letter, Mr O'Neill tells of a recent gathering of Chinese entrepreneurs in London, all sports enthusiasts coming together for the Olympic Games. An informal event, their discussion ranged from athletics to refreshments and to football.

The Chinese are falling in love with "our beautiful game", writes Mr O'Neill, before offering the throw-away line: "Some of us would like you to fall in love more directly in a certain regional direction."

Coming from such an expert as Mr O'Neill, I can only interpret this as a straight appeal for a Chinese takeover of Manchester United, to save the club any further embarrassment from the Glazers.

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They can write a good headline down at Capital MSL, the public relations firm that's big in Dubai.

"Elpis has left the building" was the tag on a recent email from them.

The message went on to discuss Mario Monti, the Italian prime minister, regarding bailouts from the European Central Bank.

As a long time fan of the "king of rock 'n' roll", Elvis Presley, I got the allusion straight away.

"Elvis has left the building" was a line used in American concert halls to try to pacify fans waiting for another encore from their hero.

But elpis? I thought at first it was some euro-acronym I hadn't quite caught up with but Capital MSL's Nahed Ashour, with a touch of classical erudition, pointed me the right way.Elpis, it seems, is a specialist term from Greek mythology meaning "hope" or "expectation". There isn't much of either in the euro zone, apparently.

---

Overheard in the Goldman Sachs elevator.

Executive: "I met this girl last night, she said, 'Gee, what would you think if you woke up in the morning with $10m?'

"I said,'I'd wonder what had happened to the rest of my money'."

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