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Did a fake Qatari newspaper report send Manchester United shares soaring overnight?

Al Watan/Twitter

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:

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.”

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:

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:

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:

2SportTV’s lavishly designed website

As of 4.30pm Tuesday, Manchester United remains unsold, while The Independent reports this afternoon that takeover broker Raine is still in talks with all bidders, with INEOS chief and boyhood Manchester United fan Jim Ratcliffe Jassim’s main rival, and the preferred bidder of Manchester United fans, judging by an admittedly unscientific straw poll of red friends around Manchester.

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