Man United risk falling out of UK money lead

LONDON: Manchester United risk losing their position as England’s top-earning club as a string of management missteps and sub-par performances left them shut out of Europe’s most lucrative competition.

After failing to qualify for the Uefa Champions League for the second time in four seasons, the struggling team has forecast annual revenue will slide as much as 11% from the previous year.

That may put them behind Manchester City and Liverpool this year, which would knock the club from the UK’s top spot for the first time in the 23 years since Deloitte began its Money League report on football revenue.

“The local rivals have combined strong on-pitch performance under their talisman managers with investment in stadia and commercial infrastructure to deliver sustained revenue growth,” said Alan Switzer, a director in Deloitte’s Sports Business Group.

One of England’s most storied clubs, Manchester United appear headed off course even as combined revenue for the top 20 European teams gained 11% in the 2018-2109 season.

Spanish club Barcelona lead Deloitte’s money table for the first time with a record-breaking €841 million in annual sales, while Real Madrid dropped to second, according to the report.

“Barcelona gained from operational changes like bringing merchandising and licensing activities in-house and is a clear example of a club adapting to changing market conditions,” said Dan Jones, a partner in the Deloitte group.

United have been looking for someone to steer the team since the 26-year tenure of legendary coach Alex Ferguson stepped down in 2013.

The team is on its third full-time replacement, and while former United coach Jose Mourinho won the Europa League in his first season there, absence from the preeminent Champions League is set to hit revenues hard.

Mourinho’s reign was cut short last season as high-earning players like Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez failed to boost results.

The English giants are still lagging behind the leaders under manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and are currently ranked outside the top four positions that qualify for next season’s Champions League.

Some fans have begun voicing their frustrations with chants and songs directed against the club’s American owners, the Glazer family, and Deputy Chairman Ed Woodward, according to media reports.

“Still, the global appeal of the club, which some competitors are still far from matching, should give United the opportunity to innovate and take advantage of new market developments like few others can,” the Deloitte report said.

Club officials declined to comment.

The Premier League’s success with global and domestic broadcast contracts helped eight of its teams finish in Europe’s top 20 Money League positions.

Germany has three teams on the list, Spain has three, and Italy boasts four.