STEWART Donald says the chance to take over at Sunderland was just too good to turn down.

But he admits doing battle with Oxford United both on and off the field in Sky Bet League One next season will be a strange feeling.

The successful businessman is a lifelong U’s fan and has come close on more than one occasion to being heavily involved – and even owning – his hometown club.

However, when former United chairman Darryl Eales pulled the plug on a deal involving Donald and Juan Sartori to instead sell to Sumrith Thanakarnjanasuth, the new Sunderland owner knew he had to move on.

“That was the chance,” he said. “Once that deal was over, I was done.”

The irony now is that the duo are set to be reunited at the Stadium of Light and go head-to-head with United next season after Donald spent the weekend in Monaco with Sartori discussing his potential involvement with the Black Cats.

Another lifelong U’s supporter, Charlie Methven, also part of the duo’s bid for power at Oxford, has already been confirmed as a minority shareholder.

“There is a very strong chance Juan will be here with me,” Donald said.

“He was very disappointed not to pick Oxford up.

“We were virtually there. But I think the deal with Tiger (Thanakarnjanasuth) came in just as we were about to close and that changed things.

“Darryl made a decision and that is completely his prerogative. However, instinctively I thought Juan would have been a good fit for Oxford.”

Donald, whose Bridle Insurance company is a former shirt sponsor with United, knows he has a massive job on his hands at Sunderland, taking over a club who have suffered back-to-back relegations and have players on their wage bill earning around £40,000 a week.

However, the deal he struck with former owner Ellis Short gives him reason to be upbeat over the future.

Donald will pay £40 million over two years to Short, having had the club’s debt wiped out. Coupled with Sunderland receiving Premier League parachute payments totalling almost £50m over the next two seasons, he believes the figures stacked up.

“It’s a phenomenal club,” he said. “When you actually see it and appreciate what you have here.

“For the price and given the stature of the club, it was a very difficult deal to say no to.

“I am sat here looking out at a near 50,000-capacity stadium. We also have a state-of-the-art academy that’s up there with the best in the country.”

He added: “The cost of buying Oxford and the stadium – and then doing what needs doing to it. I have probably got Sunderland for a similar amount.

“Anything I did always had to make financial sense. This does. At Oxford, it didn’t always.

“I would have wanted the ground and the club and I could never get the two at the same time.

“But owning Sunderland and being up against Oxford is going to be very different, that’s for sure.

“I just hope the two teams do not play each other when it matters. That will be very tough.”