The process had been going on for six months and was already beginning to hurt Jim Ratcliffe, the British billionaire, the first time he brought out the champagne to toast the purchase of Manchester United. But even that celebration, at the Monaco Grand Prix in May, proved premature.

There was no deal. Not yet.

Making one was never going to be easy. Mainly that was because any potential sale of United offered a tempting combination of money, power and history: Ratcliffe, the wealthy chairman of INEOS, the petrochemicals giant, had supported Manchester United since he was a boy. United, the most decorated club in English football, was one of the most iconic brands in world sport. And the Premier League, to which he belonged, was the richest football league in the world.

What followed was an auction as unpredictable and chaotic as some of Manchester United’s most memorable matches. The media breathlessly followed the surges in momentum between Ratcliffe’s candidacy and a rival led by a little-known Qatari sheikh.

United fans, eager to see their club get rid of its unpopular owners, the Florida-based Glazer family, gobbled it up. However, while the negotiations produced months of headlines, discussions and rumors, what they did not produce was a sale.

Ratcliffe won in the end. A bit.

On December 26, the Glazers announced that they had agreed to sell 25 percent of United to Mr. Ratcliffe, one of the richest men in the world. The price (more than $1.5 billion) allowed for a curious deal in which Ratcliffe, the new minority owner, would assume day-to-day control of the club’s football operations. The agreement was ratified Tuesday night.

On Wednesday, as Ratcliffe outlined his vision, newspapers and websites eagerly latched onto headline quotes about new players, old rivals and stadium plans. But a closer listen to his words suggested that the grueling sales process might have been the easy part. Reviving United, a trophy-winning machine a decade ago, reduced in recent seasons to something closer to a punchline, is likely to be a years-long process, he warned.

“It’s not a light switch,” Ratcliffe said. “It’s not one of those things that changes overnight.”

Ratcliffe spoke of how, under his management, United would adopt a football-focused mentality – a clear effort to differentiate their approach from that of the Glazers, whose management has helped turn United into an ATM commercially – but it was a confusing and choppy disappointment. in the countryside.

Continued failures, Ratcliffe said, “will start to degrade the brand if you’re not careful.”

He was less clear about how his investment, as a minority shareholder, will work in practice when it comes to major decisions, saying only that he had established a relationship with Joel and Avram Glazer, the two members of the Glazer family most involved in United. during what he described as a “difficult” sales process.

“As long as we do the right thing, I’m sure the relationship will go very well,” Ratcliffe said.

The delay in completing their investment was not due to the Glazers anyway, he said, but rather a confluence of circumstances that included United’s independent directors, hedge funds that owned a portion of Manchester United’s shares that will continue listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Exchange, American financial regulators and a Qatari group whose presence seemed to do little more than drive up the price.

At one point Wednesday, Ratcliffe joked that he wasn’t even sure the little-known sheikh billed as the figurehead of Qatar’s bid actually existed.

His interest, he insisted, was genuine. He recalled growing up in a family divided along tribal lines, with one half leaning toward the red of United and the other toward the pale blue of city rivals Manchester City.

For much of Ratcliffe’s life, that hasn’t been much of a rivalry. But now City are the most prominent team in football, a serial winner of the English Premier League and the champions of Europe. And in an hour of rambling with reporters, it was notable how often United’s new owner returned to the success being enjoyed on the other side of Manchester.

“There’s nothing I’d like more than to knock them both down,” Ratcliffe said of City and United’s other recently successful rival, Liverpool.

For fans, the phrase was somewhat reminiscent of club folklore, as Alex Ferguson, the manager, once used it in reference to Liverpool, the manager who would do what he promised during two decades of trophy collecting at United.

“They have been in a good place for a while and there are things we can learn from both of them,” Ratcliffe said of City and Liverpool.

“I have a lot of respect for them,” he added. “But they are still the enemy.”

White Ratcliffe left no doubt that he intends to return United to success as quickly as possible; Furthermore, he is hampered by Premier League regulations. United’s collapse in performance has coincided with one of the biggest talent acquisitions in its history, and untangling that profligacy has left the club in a poor position to meet league spending limits.

That means any radical restructuring efforts to address its workforce will be limited for now. “There’s no doubt that history will affect this summer window,” he said.

Defining a plan for United’s stadium may be more feasible: either a £1 billion ($1.27 billion) redevelopment of its current home, Old Trafford, or (Ratcliffe’s preference) a new build of something still larger in size that would require public investment, but would act as a facility that could serve the whole of the north of England.

By invoking Manchester’s history as the engine of the Industrial Revolution and claiming that British governments have favored investment in London and the south of the country, Ratcliffe seemed to be advocating a kind of redress for historical wrongs.

But in his case, it would be one that would also benefit a billionaire tax exile who now enjoys a life of luxury in Monte Carlo.

“I paid my taxes for 65 years in the UK,” he said. “And then when I reached retirement age, I went down to enjoy some sunshine. I’m afraid I have no problem with that.”