Manchester United could be put up for sale by the Glazer family after a statement was issued saying the board were “exploring strategic alternatives”.
The Glazers bought United in 2005 in a £790million leveraged buyout, and had been unpopular with fans even before last year’s moves to join a breakaway European Super League.
A statement from the club said: “Manchester United plc announces today that the company’s board of directors is commencing a process to explore strategic alternatives for the club.
“The process is designed to enhance the club’s future growth, with the ultimate goal of positioning the club to capitalize on opportunities both on the pitch and commercially.
“As part of this process, the board will consider all strategic alternatives, including new investment into the club, a sale, or other transactions involving the company.”
The Glazers exit would mark the end to a turbulent period lasting nearly two decades.
Protests have dogged most of their tenure, with fans unhappy at the way the American family have saddled the club with debt following a leveraged buyout in 2005.
It sparked a movement where supporters would wear green and yellow scarves, a nod to the original colours of the Newton Heath club that preceded United. David Beckham wore one when he returned to Old Trafford as an AC Milan player in 2010.
There are limited options for successors to the Glazers, such is the high price likely to be generated by a total sale of the club.
Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the billionaire owner of Ineos, has previously explored a purchase before but was told at the time that the Glazers did not want to sell.