Jan. 10 - The world-famous football team has suffered the rare indignity of losing three games in a week in three different competitions. ''What has gone wrong at Man U?'' is a talking point in offices across Britain and beyond and the team's poor form is putting pressure on its New York-listed shares. Ivor Bennett reports.
Manchester United are not used to losing. The last time they lost three in a row was back in 2001, and even that was with the title already sewn up. But the latest string of defeats has got the alarm bells ringing. The club's share price sliding - down from 18 dollars in May to little more than 15 now. Ishaq Siddiqi from ETX Capital. SOUNDBITE (English) ISHAQ SIDDIQI, MARKET STRATEGIST, ETX CAPITAL, SAYING: "I would be quite prudent when it comes to taking a bet on Manchester United just yet, purely for the reason that we have seen a big drop in the stock price." But is it as bad as it seems? Despite the slump, turnover this season's forecast to reach 430 million pounds - way ahead of United's domestic rivals. A poor finish in the Premier League would mean less prize money. But when it comes to broadcasting rights, even a slide could work in their favour. Football finance expert Daniel Geey. SOUNDBITE (English) DANIEL GEEY, FOOTBALL LAWYER, FIELD FISHER WATERHOUSE, SAYING: "It's not going to impact that much. What may actually increase the popularity of United, is this story of the struggle." Where the club could have problems is failing to qualify for the Champions League. A distinct possibility with the team currently in 7th with over half the season gone. Europe's top competition brought in 35 million euros last year in broadcast rights and prize money. Not a big loss in itself maybe - but a prolonged absence could have knock-on effects. SOUNDBITE (English) DANIEL GEEY, SPORTS LAWYER, FIELD FISHER WATERHOUSE, SAYING: "Contractually there may actually be downsizing clauses in a number of sponsorship arrangements, which say that for the more visible side of United's sponsorship, that if that club isn't participating in the Champions League then the sponsor won't pay them the same amount of money." From General Motors, to Nike, DHL to Japanese paint maker Kansai - corporate tie-ups have been the key to United's business success. Much of it's thanks to its global following - with an estimated 650 million supporters worldwide. But if the slump in form continues beyond this season, their loyalty could be tested.