Sir Jim Ratcliffe was among those in attendance at the Munich Air Disaster memorial as he edges closer to becoming minority owner at Manchester United.
February 6 is a date indelibly marked in club history after the plane carrying Sir Matt Busby’s side crashed on its way back from a European Cup tie at Red Star Belgrade in 1958.
Eight players were among the 23 lives claimed in a tragedy that is remembered every year by all connected to United.
Ratcliffe was among those at Old Trafford on Tuesday afternoon for the 66th anniversary commemoration.
The billionaire is still awaiting his 25 per cent acquisition of the club to get the green light but he and his Ineos team have been a visible presence since the deal was announced on Christmas Eve.
Ratcliffe has visited United on several occasions, including January’s draw with Tottenham, and was joined at the ceremony by Ineos director of sport Sir Dave Brailsford.
The incoming minority owner arrived at the ceremony alongside Sir Alex Ferguson.
The captains of those respective teams, Bruno Fernandes and Katie Zelem, were also among those at the fan-led service in the pouring rain.
Former player and assistant Mike Phelan represented the club at a separate memorial event at Manchesterplatz in Munich.
Outside Old Trafford, former club chaplain Rev John Boyers acted as master of ceremonies.
There were readings, songs from supporters and a minute’s silence at 3.04pm – the moment the plane crashed in 1958.
Sir Bobby Charlton, a survivor of the crash, was among them following his death in October, as was former boss Sir Alex Ferguson’s wife Lady Cathy Ferguson. The United great looked touched as fans applauded her name.
Towards the end of the ceremony, Rev Boyers said: “Today is about a great sadness. We have remembered together a tragic chapter in the history of Manchester United.
“But the years after that tell of hope, and of glory that replaced despair and mourning.
“And in that next chapter of the United story after Munich, surely we find hope.
“I say to you again, remain hopeful for your club and its future.”
The billionaire is acquiring 25 per cent of the Class B shares held by the Glazer family – which carry 10 times the voting rights of Class A shares – as part of his investment.
Existing shareholders voted at an extraordinary general meeting on Monday to approve a special resolution, under which the Class B shares would not convert to Class A shares when they were transferred to Ratcliffe.
Ratcliffe is also purchasing up to 25 per cent of Class A shares and investing 300million US dollars (£239m) into the club’s infrastructure. The deal is also subject to Premier League approval.
The Ineos chairman the first option to buy more Class B shares from the Glazers, should they decide to sell more.