Manchester United have not won a trophy since they lifted the Europa League under Jose Mourinho in 2017. In truth, United has been on a fluctuating decline since the departure of long-term manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
On and off the field problems
The Red Devils have had eight different permanent and interim managers since 2013 and have struggled to gain consistency long-term.
The problems have not just been on the field but with the recruitment – the fees United have spent on players have now exceeded £1 billion. Paul Pogba came in for around £90 million and was unsuccessful, Harry Maguire was £80 million and has now lost his place in the team.
— Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93) September 21, 2022
There has been no shortage of investment in the transfer market, but perhaps United has a shortage of good decision makers in the recruitment team. The club has even been influenced by fans on social media at times shown when the Marko Arnautovic deal was called off.
ExpressVPN’s infographic shows how stream searches for United have consistently fallen in the last few years. In August 2021, United was comfortably the most-searched-for team. In May 2022 they were one of the least searched-for teams with Liverpool comfortably the most popular. Perhaps United’s demise in the past several years has led to many fans losing interest; this can also be suggested by commercial revenue records.
Manchester United’s commercial revenue peaked at £336 million in 2018 but it has consistently fallen since. In 2021, it was down to 321 million.
Reasons for the revenue slump
United are still comfortably the biggest brand in football and will certainly continue to be for a long time. However, the underlying figures suggest fans could be losing interest due to their poor form. As long as bad transfer market decisions and inconsistency in results continue other huge clubs could bridge the gap. Erik Ten Hag has shown strong signs he can steady the ship at United but Liverpool is a much more popular team in terms of Internet searches at the moment.
NEW | Fabrizio Romano: “Erik ten Hag is very clear on this. He would love to see Man Utd reacting on the market in January” [YT]
It’s obvious how quickly he wants to get players in and build a new team. Must be backed in January! pic.twitter.com/RECeFfRcRD
— UtdFaithfuls (@UtdFaithfuls) September 20, 2022
Another explanation for United’s commercial decline could be due to a boycott as a result of a dislike for the club’s owners. The Glazers family has been criticized by many fans as they took out a nine-figure loan to purchase the club which they later leveraged against the club.
The Glazers have not provided any cash injections into the club and so many fans feel they offer no gain to the club and actually negatively affect the club. Therefore, some fans have stopped purchasing merchandise in order to not fund the Glazers as they take dividends out of the club each year.
The boycott’s contribution to the revenue loss could still be put down to United’s poor performances on the pitch. With improved performances, fans’ attention would be focused on the pitch rather than issues on it.
United’s staggering decline since Sir Alex Ferguson left and the revolving door of managers coming in and out can certainly account for the club losing popularity and revenue. If performances on the pitch do not consistently change for the better then United may eventually not be the biggest brand in football anymore.