Hedge funds bet against Manchester United

Duncan Robinson and Roger Blitz
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Manchester United has had a dismal start in the Premier League this season – and some hedge funds are betting that their shares will have a similarly rotten run of form.

Odey Asset Management, founded by hedge fund manager Crispin Odey and one of the UK's most prominent funds, has revealed a short position worth about $5 million in the football club.

(Read more: The other 'football': More in US heading to games)

The hedge fund has about 310,000 shares – under 1 percent of the club's class A shares – out on loan. New York hedge fund Tremblant Capital also has a 0.81 percent short position in the football club.

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Both Odey and Tremblant are bucking the trend. The number of shares out on loan as a percentage of the free float peaked at just under 10 percent earlier this year and is now just under 6 percent, according to data from Markit.

Shares in Manchester United have enjoyed a modest rise since the club floated at $14 in New York last summer. The shares have risen by about a fifth over the past 12 months to just under $17.

(Read more: Manchester United earnings lifted by sponsorship)

While the team itself has under performed, the commercial machine behind the club has gone into overdrive. Manchester United signed the largest shirt sponsorship deal in history, worth $559 million over seven seasons, with General Motors last summer.

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The club followed it up with a $30 million-a-year deal with insurer Aon, which let the insurer rename the club's training ground and place its logo on the backdrop for press conferences.

Both Manchester United and Odey declined to comment, while Tremblant could not be reached for comment.