As Manchester United face another season out of the Champions League, their on-pitch fortunes couldn't contrast more sharply with their off-the-pitch performance, which sees them on course to become the first British football club ever to make half a billion pounds in one year. Joel Flynn reports.
Manchester United's season is looking like one to forget. Arch-rivals Liverpool adding to a series of disappointments, as they knocked the Red Devils out of their second European competition this season. Qualifying for next year's Champions League is now the priority, and not just for their pride, according to Sportsrisq director Max Hamilton. SOUNDBITE: Sportsrisq Director, Max Hamilton, saying (English): "There would be an immediate cost to their bottom line for that, be it prize money, be it sponsorship bonus, and the ability of it to attract Champions League level players in the summer." Off the pitch though things couldn't be going better. An aggressive commercial strategy has seen them hoovering up sponsorships all over the world. Headline deals with the likes of Chevrolet and Adidas being added to with smaller tie ups. They're now on course to become the first British club to make half a billion pounds in one year. SOUNDBITE: Sportsrisq Director, Max Hamilton, saying (English): "They've led the way, really you'd say, in the entire football industry, and have very very thinly sliced their rights around the world, geographically and from a sector perspective." Brand Man U has much going for it - not least their success over the last few decades, if not the last few seasons. While some worry that might disappear if poor performances persist, others say their aura will be around for sometime yet. SOUNDBITE: CMC Markets, Jasper Lawler, saying (English): "I would imagine it's going to take close to a decade of underperformance, something akin to dropping out of the Premier League and really becoming a sub-par team, to really take away from the branding effort that's taken place over the past couple of decades." United are listed on the New York stock market - and shares this season have plunged by 26 percent. Investors, business partners and fans will all be hoping the club can turn things around sooner, rather than later.