Manchester United have sensationally resisted an £850 million takeover bid from a Chinese consortium.
We can reveal a Midlands-based finance expert made the shock move three months ago on behalf of Far Eastern investors.
They hoped that United's American owners, the Glazer family, would want to rid themselves of the £660m debt they currently have after buying the club two years ago.
But United's joint chairman, Joel Glazer and chief executive David Gill refused to even respond to the Chinese interest. Gill would only say last night: "As it's an ownership matter, it's a matter for the family and their represenatives — not for me."
The Chinese used Rugby-based Lisa Hale, asset manager of Rosevalley Commercial Ventures, in collaboration with lawyer Richard Devaux, who has experience in commercial sport activities and has worked for the FA.
The pair were convinced the Chinese had the financial might to buy United outright. But the Glazers, who gained control of United after a controversial and protracted £790m takeover, have always insisted they are at the club for the long haul.
And last night they even catagorically denied any bid had been received, let alone considered,
A spokesman said: "Manchester United are the world's biggest club and, of course, it is coveted but anyone who thinks that it is up for sale is mad.
"The Glazers are in it for the long haul and are determined to ensure success both on and off the pitch."
A leading football consultant said: "The power of the Chinese should not be underestimated. Their influence is growing fast and I would not rule out an eventual move by them into one of the top Premiership clubs."