Manchester United have held concrete talks with the owners of Australian side Central Coast Mariners over a deal to buy and relocate the A-League side.
The Mariners, who currently sit top of the A-League, have been struggling financially for years and have been on a desperate hunt for significant investment after owner Mike Charlesworth announced his intention to freeze all funding and sell his shares in the club.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, United have offered to come to the rescue and have held lengthy talks with Charlesworth over a deal to buy the club, on the condition that they can cut ties with the Central Coast region and take the team to Sydney.
A deal has yet to be finalised, although sources close to the negotiations are confident that there will be no significant hurdles to jump, and A-League officials are excited by the idea as they hope United’s involvement will help improve the league’s global profile.
It seems like a bit of a random deal, but the two clubs do actually have history. Man Utd assistant manager Mike Phelan was appointed as sporting director of the Mariners in the summer of 2018 and retains that position while also operating as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s right-hand man.
Should the deal go through, it would see United follow in the footsteps of cross-town rivals Manchester City, who paid the best part of £8m for control of Melbourne Heart, who were quickly rebranded as Melbourne City in 2014.
Such a fee may be used as a benchmark in these negotiations. A price tag has yet to be agreed, but Charlesworth has also hinted at including commercial property and a training base in Tuggerah, all of which are personally owned by the Mariners chief, in the deal.
Talks have been held with numerous potential investors from all over the globe. Singapore-based consortium First11 Capital and Sydney businessman Abdul Helou both failed to strike a deal with Charlesworth, but the hope is that United will be able to get things over the line.
From a neutral perspective, it would make for a fascinating watch. The Mariners sit top of the league, with Melbourne City just two points behind, so there’s already somewhat of a competitive rivalry between the two teams.