Shares in Manchester United soared overnight as rumours grew that a takeover of the for-sale club had been agreed with Qatari banker and royal family member Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad bin Jassim.
Shares in the club were up by 23 per cent in pre-market trading on Tuesday as social media lit up with the news that the long-running sale saga had finally come to a close – The Daily Express went so far as to posit that Sheikh Jassim had already set his sights on Kylian Mbappé as his first flagship signing at lunchtime.
Prominent Qatari businessman Zaid Al-Hamdan, chair of Qatar’s Armasite Group and vice-chair af the Canadian-Qatari Business Council, meanwhile, was quick out of the blocks, taking to Twitter at 11.24pm last night to congratulate Jassim on his successful bid. That Tweet itself has been viewed 3.5m times and retweeted or liked almost 40,000 times, doing its own bit for spreading the seemingly false news:
Congratulations to Shaikh Jassim Bin Hamad Bin Jassim on his acquisition of @ManUtd
— Zaid Al-Hamdan (@zaidmalhamdan) June 12, 2023
As the day drew on in expectation of an official announcement, no new developments came to light. That’s hardly unusual in this interminable drama, but now Athletic journalist Joey D’Urso may have found the dubious origins of what is looking suspiciously like fake news – Qatari newspaper Al Watan.
The newspaper, technically a legitimate news outlet, albeit in a region where the legitimacy of any news outlet should always be inspected closely, used as its source what D’Ursu describes as “a dubious tweet by a Cardiff Twitter account with 250 followers which was pushing illegal streaming.”
NEWS: a fake rumour that a Qatari takeover was complete sent Man United’s share price soaring overnight. Its origins? A Qatari newspaper editor amplifying a dubious tweet by a Cardiff Twitter account with 250 followers which was pushing illegal streaming.https://t.co/KekpIXeTp8 — Joey D’Urso (@josephmdurso) June 13, 2023
Al Watan certainly seemed to be on the ball with breaking the news to its almost 300,000 followers at 7.41pm last night, and the post is closing in on 3m views this afternoon:
— جريدة الوطن (@al_watanQatar) June 12, 2023
According to D’Urso’s research, however, its source was none other than the 2SportTV Twitter feed, not a renowned hotbed of football exclusives – its other big breaking story of the last 24 hours is that Manchester City had a parade last night:
The road seems to lead back here, an editor for the newspaper RTing something from an obviously unreliable Twitter account supposedly based in Cardiff in Wales which promotes illegal football streaming links. pic.twitter.com/wwRs5tBGFc — Joey D’Urso (@josephmdurso) June 13, 2023
Little-known source of breaking football news 2SportTV uses a generic gmail account as its official contact for its 259 Twitter followers, and judging by its website is not exactly the best-resourced of football newshounds: