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Elon Musk Briefly Wakes Up a Sleeping Soccer Giant

The CEO of Tesla has just revived the debate on the future of Manchester United.
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Is he serious or is it just a big joke? 

Whatever the answer, the message is likely to cause an earthquake in the soccer world at a time when the national championships have just restarted in Europe. 

Elon Musk, the richest man in the world, just mentioned Manchester United, one of the most famous football clubs in the planet. Some will say that it would be a match from hell but for others it would be a real cataclysm.

'I'm Buying'

In a tweet posted on August 16 and already liked by nearly 250,000 Twitter users in two hours, the CEO of electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla  (TSLA)  indicated that he was in the process of acquiring the English club. 

As often is the case with Musk, who sees himself as the most innovative and revolutionary CEO of our time, it's hard to tell if this message is simply a posturing sign of his bombastic style or a joke.

"Also, I’m buying Manchester United ur welcome," the serial entrepreneur posted.

The message, that was posted after another post in which Musk explains his place on the American political spectrum, took social media by surprise, which almost never saw the billionaire talk about sport and moreover soccer.

"Ok this is crazy," commented a Twitter user.

"OKAY THIS IS CRAZY," another Twitter user repeated.

"Why? Are you serious?" asked another user.

The word "crazy" is the one that came up the most. It reflected the fact that users were stunned by the post and did not know how to interpret it.

More than four hours after his initial tweet, the billionaire clarified his message, saying he was joking.

"No, this is a long-running joke on Twitter. I’m not buying any sports teams," Musk said later on. 

He added that: "Although, if it were any team, it would be Man U. They were my fav team as a kid."

" Our position is that we do not comment on rumours and speculation," said a Manchester United spokesperson by email after Musk's clarification.

Manchester United  (MANU) , is publicly traded.

Musk Can Buy Manchester United if He Wants

Musk is the richest man in the world with an estimated fortune of $267 billion as of August 16, according to Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Manchester United, one of the few public soccer clubs, has a market capitalization of just over $2 billion at the time of writing.

Given these figures, the tech tycoon may have the financial power to take control of the English club. But Musk, who seems to say he is the potential savior of the team, has no experience in the sport.  

Manchester United lost their first two matches  of the new season of the English Premier League, which started on August 7. They currently occupy the last place. The team are already six points behind local rival Manchester City who are currently in the lead.

Musk is known for turning almost everything he touches into gold. After being mocked for many years with Tesla, he managed to push the auto industry to adopt electric vehicles and self-driving programs. The maker of Model S and Model 3 sedans and Model Y and Model X SUV/crossovers has a market value just over $960 billion, compared to $100 billion (Volkswagen  (VLKAF) ) to $200 billion (Toyota  (TOYOF) ) for its closest pursuers, which produce several million vehicles per year compared to barely a million for Tesla in 2021.

The first tweet certainly surprised Manchester United supporters and fans, but they seemed to want to welcome Musk with open arms.

"If @elonmusk really is buying @ManUtd he will get 1.1bn followers for $2bn. That beats buying Twitter in terms of $ for global reach," one fan reacted.

"I for one welcome our new Tesla overlords," another said, with a photo of fans holding a sign calling for the departure of the current owners, the Glazer family.

A Club with A Lot of History

"Through our 144-year football heritage, we have won 66 trophies, enabling us to develop what we believe is one of the world’s leading sports and entertainment brands with a global community of 1.1 billion fans and followers," the club claims in his official documents.

"Our large, passionate and highly engaged fan base provides Manchester United with a worldwide platform to generate significant revenue from multiple sources, including sponsorship, merchandising, product licensing, broadcasting and match day initiatives which in turn, directly fund our ability to continuously reinvest in the club."

In the third quarter of its 2022 fiscal year ended March 31, the club generated revenue of £152.4 million ($184.58 million) for a net loss of £27.7 million ($33.55 million), according to a press release.

Musk has often handled important transactions as jokes. This was the case with the microblogging website Twitter (TWTR) for which he made a $44 billion offer in April, an offer he later withdrew. Twitter has filed a complaint and wants the courts to force Musk to honor his commitment. A trial is scheduled for mid-October and should last five days, unless the two parties reach an agreement by then.