Man United stars finally know where they stand as Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s loyalties become clear

Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s absence from Wembley Stadium on Sunday afternoon was utterly silent, if indeed actions speak louder than words.

It appeared like the INEOS executive would face one of his first major tests as the club’s co-owner when the powers that be decided that Manchester United’s men’s team would play Arsenal in the Premier League on the same afternoon as the Women’s FA Cup final. After a quick glance at the directors’ box on Sunday afternoon in north-west London, it was clear he had failed that test badly.

Ratcliffe and INEOS sporting director Sir Dave Brailsford will be at Old Trafford to watch United take on Tottenham Hotspur in an attempt to win the club’s first major women’s trophy. After a largely disappointing domestic campaign, United is hoping to secure continental football for next season.

Avram Glazer, a co-owner, will be observing the proceedings in London along with other high-ranking INEOS personnel. One could argue that this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Assuming that the men’s team will almost always take precedence over the women’s squad because enhancing their fortunes is not Ratcliffe’s top priority would be naïve.

His plate was almost undoubtedly clogged with Erik ten Hag’s team-related concerns; among the numerous things that will probably be on his mind right now are concerns about the manager’s future, the composition of the playing team, and the possibility of rebuilding the stadium.

But there isn’t much at stake for the hosts versus the Gunners, so there isn’t much justification for his blatant disregard for Skinner’s side. The players will undoubtedly view Ratcliffe’s non-appearance as a bit of a slap in the face, even though United claims that he has personally wished luck to everyone involved at Wembley.

In truth, the warning signs have been there for some time. Despite voicing ambitions to make United the best in class in every department, the 72-year-old’s conduct in recent months has smacked of a total disregard for a women’s team that, for too long, has been regarded as an afterthought by one of the biggest footballing institutions in the world.

During an hour-long meeting with the press back in February, Ratcliffe discussed a vast array of topics but his appraisal of Skinner’s side was noticeably brief. He said: “The only thing I would say is that if it’s a team wearing a Manchester United badge on their shirt then it’s Manchester United and they need to be focused on winning and being successful.”

Ratcliffe’s agenda, it seems evident, does not include taking an interest in that achievement. It appears that there is a “one club mentality” only when it is practical. Of course, one could counter that Ratcliffe is not solely to blame for this significant PR stunt. The scheduling gods have not been kind to United, and maybe the decision to move the Reds’ match against Arsenal to the same afternoon as the FA Cup final needs more examination.

But, when you consider Ratcliffe managed to juggle running the London Marathon with attending United’s FA Cup semi-final meeting with Coventry City last month, his lack of effort on this occasion is sobering. Certainly, it does not feel the INEOS chief is invested in the bright new dawn that so many supporters of the women’s team were hoping for.

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