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Monday, September 21, 1998 Published at 07:19 GMT 08:19 UK

F1 boss denies United link

David Beckham is a major Old Trafford asset

Formula One motor racing boss Bernie Ecclestone will not be going head to head with Rupert Murdoch in the battle for Manchester United.

Ecclestone has been involved in plans to set up a breakaway European Super League.

But he has dismissed reports in the Murdoch-owned News of the World that he is involved in an attempt to trump BSkyB's £623m bid for United.

[ image: Bernie Ecclestone:
Bernie Ecclestone: "Super League would work"
The newspaper claimed Ecclestone is prepared to pay £700m to snatch the club away from Mr Murdoch's satellite TV station.

But he told the Daily Telegraph: "I am not the slightest bit interested in buying a football club.

"The last thing I would ever do is go head-to-head with Rupert Murdoch. It wouldn't make sense."

United would be bound by law to consult their shareholders on any bid higher than BSkyB's.

A mystery rival offer for Manchester United was suspended earlier this week when the club refused to supply information to an American bank acting for the anonymous bidder.

'Great idea'

Mr Ecclestone is supporting businessmen planning a European Super League.

The Milan-based consortium Media Partners has already had talks with major European clubs including United, Arsenal and Liverpool.

Mr Ecclestone's highly advanced digital TV business makes him ideally placed to offer a huge range of pay-per-view matches.

He said: "I've been discussing the current situation with Media Partners for eight months.

[ image: Mr Ecclestone has made his millions running Formula One]
Mr Ecclestone has made his millions running Formula One
"My involvement would be a set-up thing rather than day-to-day management, but I don't know what the extent of my investment would be."

The frenzy of rumours surrounding the whole affair does not end with Mr Ecclestone's involvement.

It is also being reported that United fan and Simply Red star Mick Hucknall has had talks with American TV company CNN - owned by Murdoch's media rival Ted Turner - about another bid to challenge the Sky deal.

The team is what counts

United legend Sir Bobby Charlton is concerned that all the takeover talk is deflecting interest away from the team.

He said: "It doesn't matter who the chairman is or who owns the club. I don't like the idea of television running everything, but it's progress.

"All the supporters are bothered about is the team and if they are good enough to be proud of. Manchester United has such a vast tradition and who owns the club is not the be-all and end-all."

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In this section

Inquiry chief reassures Man Utd fans

Bid rumours 'unfounded'

Countdown to the deal

Murdoch's dash to the goal

Murdoch's rise to the top

Who's afraid of Rupert Murdoch?

Man Utd: the jewel in football's crown

Is Mandelson a match for Murdoch?