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Glazers turned down £1.5 billion offer for United

THE Glazer family intend to resist any attempt by the 'Red Knights' to buy Manchester United this summer, having rejected a £1.5 billion offer for the club from a Middle Eastern investment group.

A member of the Old Trafford hierarchy disclosed details yesterday of a number of bids that the Glazers have received for United over the past 18 months - the largest of which was for £1.5 billion last year - and stated that the family will not countenance the idea of selling to the self-styled Red Knights, the group of powerful businessmen and wealthy investors who have formed an alliance with a view to buying the club.

The timing of the disclosure will inevitably attract scepticism among the Red Knights and United fans, who will believe that the Glazers have leaked the information to strengthen their negotiating position before they receive an opening offer in the region of £1 billion in the coming weeks.

There is great concern among United's fanbase about the club's debts, which stood at £716.5m at the most recent count, and at the damaging payment in kind loans that could total £588m by the time they are due to be repaid in 2017.

United's activity in the transfer market last summer - when they spent only a fraction of the world-record £80m fee they received from Real Madrid for Cristiano Ronaldo - increased the widely held perception that the debt has affected Alex Ferguson's budget.

The message from within Old Trafford, however, is that Ferguson will be given the freedom to invest large sums on players this summer, with Luka Modric, of Tottenham Hotspur, and David Silva, of Valencia, among those he has identified to bring more creativity to his midfield.

Darren Fletcher, however, is convinced Manchester United would be getting ready for their coronation as England's first four-time title winners had it not been for the chronic mid-season injury crisis.

At one point, Patrice Evra was the only fit senior defender. Fletcher, Michael Carrick and rookie Ritchie De Laet constituted the three-man back-line at Fulham in December, when Evra was deployed as a wing-back.

Little wonder United slumped to a three-goal defeat, which has ultimately proved so costly in a battle with Chelsea that has gone down to the final day.

"Without those defensive injuries it could have been very different," Fletcher said.

"At one stage we had one fit defender in the squad. No team has been able to cope with that."