Elon Musk, the world's richest person, on Tuesday tweeted that he was buying English soccer club Manchester United Plc, without offering any details.

However, shortly afterwards, in response to another tweet, Musk said it was a "long-running joke" on Twitter and he was not buying any sports teams.

Musk has a history of being unconventional and posting irreverent tweets.

Only four months after announcing he would buy Twitter, Musk is now trying to exit a $44 billion agreement to buy the social media company, which has taken him to court.

Manchester United is one of the most famous names in world soccer but is currently in crisis on the field amid angry calls from fans for the club's current owners, the American Glazer family, to pull out.

“I'm buying Manchester United ur (sic) welcome,” Musk said in his first tweet.

The northern England-based team has more than 32 million followers on its main Twitter account and Musk's tweet had garnered nearly 320,000 'likes' on the platform within three hours.

Musk's post was a follow-on comment to a previous tweet: “To be clear, I support the left half of the Republican Party and the right half of the Democratic Party!” Left half and right half are soccer lineup positions.

Some disgruntled United fans had previously urged Musk to consider buying the club rather than Twitter. In early reactions on Tuesday, some users mockingly compared Musk's latest tweet with his run at Twitter, or seemed to consider it no more than a joke, while others expressed hope it was true.

One user with the handle 'DavidQ1987' said, “If Elon saves us from the Glazers I'm buying a Tesla in his honour!”

'CrkNFT' tweeted: “Like buying, buying? Or the same way you bought Twitter? Frankly, either way Man U fans would probably be happy.”

Nightmare

The comment by Musk, chief executive of electric car giant Tesla, came as United, champions of England a record 20 times, suffer a nightmare opening on the field to the 2022-2023 season.

One of the world's best-known and most widely supported teams, United are rooted at the bottom of the English Premier League after losing their first two games, having failed over the summer to adequately rebuild a squad that performed comparatively poorly last season.

Musk, who is worth $270bn, according to Forbes, can certainly afford to buy the New York-listed football club, whose shares have slid a quarter in the past 12 months, valuing it at just over $2bn. The stock has rebounded in the past month, gaining 16 per cent to close at $12.78 on Tuesday.

Last week, filings revealed that Musk had sold $6.9bn worth of Tesla shares, which he said could be used to finance a potential Twitter deal if he loses a legal battle with the social media platform.

In total, Musk has sold about $32bn worth of Tesla stock in less than a year partly to pay tax obligations and finance a Twitter deal.

Musk and his lawyer did not immediately respond to Reuters' request for comments. The Florida-based Glazer family did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Widespread opposition

Clamour from fans and pundits for a change of ownership at the three-time winners of the European Cup, the most prestigious club competition in the global game, is intensifying amid a lengthening run without winning major titles.

In its annual rankings this year, Forbes rated Manchester United, with its huge global fanbase, the third most valuable football club in the world, worth $4.6bn, behind only Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona.

British newspaper The Daily Mirror reported last year that the Glazers, who have faced widespread fan opposition to their stewardship since acquiring the club in 2005 for 790 million pounds ($957m), were prepared to sell but only if they were offered in excess of 4bn pounds.

Dissatisfaction among fans at the Glazers' perceived lack of ambition to bring in top players intensified after the club finished sixth in the English Premier League last season — while crosstown rivals Manchester City won a second successive title.

Musk has a history of unconventional actions and comments, making it difficult sometimes to tell when he is joking.

“Next I'm buying Coca-Cola to put the cocaine back in,” Musk tweeted on August 27, two days after Twitter's board accepted his unsolicited offer — announced on his Twitter feed — to buy the company.

Musk's tweets about potential acquisitions have landed him in hot water with US regulators in the past.

In 2018, he tweeted that there was “funding secured” for a $72bn deal to take Tesla private, but did not move ahead with an offer. Musk and Tesla each paid $20m civil fines — and Musk stepped down as Tesla's chairman — to resolve US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) claims that Musk defrauded investors.

The SEC did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Musk's tweet on acquiring another US-listed company outside usual business hours.

Musk's ambitions range from colonising Mars to creating a new sustainable energy economy, and in the process, he has built the most valuable car company in the world, electric vehicle maker Tesla, rocket company SpaceX, and a slew of smaller firms. One is a tunnel maker called the Boring Company.

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