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Ratcliffe invokes words of Ferguson in setting out 3-year plan to end City and Liverpool dominance

MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Invoking the famous words of Alex Ferguson, British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe set out his ambition to knock local rivals Manchester City and Liverpool “off their perch” within three years after becoming a co-owner of Manchester United.

Ratcliffe completed his purchase of a minority stake in United on Tuesday, with an initial injection of $1.5 billion meaning he owns approximately 27.7% of the iconic club — with the promise of further investment of $100 million by the end of the year.

Ratcliffe, 71, now partly owns a club he has supported since the age of 6 but which has been in the shadow of City and Liverpool over the past decade since the retirement of Ferguson in 2013.

Ferguson once said his greatest challenge was knocking Liverpool “right off their perch,” with United managing to surpass its great rival’s tally of 18 league titles before Ferguson retired. The Scot also once branded City as the “noisy neighbors” in 2010.

Playing to the gallery, Ratcliffe used the same phrases in his first public words since officially becoming co-owner.

“We have a lot to learn from our noisy neighbor and the other neighbor. They are the enemy at the end of the day,” Ratcliffe said. “There is nothing I would like better than to knock both of them off their perch. Equally, we are the three great northern clubs who are very close to one another.

“They have been in a good place for a while and there are things we can learn from both of them. They have sensible organizations, great people within the organizations, a good, driven and elite environment that they work in. I am very respectful of them but they are still the enemy.”

Ratcliffe said it would not be an “overnight change.”

“It’s going to take two or three seasons,” he said. “You have to ask the fans for some patience. I know the world these days likes instant gratification but that’s not the case with football, really.

“It’s not a 10-year plan. The fans would run out of patience if it was a 10-year plan. But it’s certainly a three-year plan to get there.”

Ratcliffe said he is looking to work with the public sector on either building a new $2.5 billion stadium to regenerate the area around Old Trafford, which he envisages hosting England games and FA Cup finals, or redeveloping the existing site at a cost of $1.25 billion.

He believes having a modern stadium is key and wants it to rival Wembley Stadium as the top venue in England for the biggest matches.

“There is a really good case to refurbish Old Trafford,” he said. “You finish up with a great stadium, it’s probably an 80 or 90,000-seater. But it’s not perfect because you’re modifying a stadium that is slap bang up against a railway line and all that type of stuff, so it’s not an ideal world. But you finish up with a very good answer.

“There’s this wider conversation with the community as to whether you could use a more ambitious project on site as a catalyst to regenerate that Old Trafford area.”

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The Associated Press