Manchester United is finding soccer success hard to come by, but is still making record amounts off the field 

Key Points
  • Manchester United is the world’s richest soccer club, valued at $4.1 billion.
  • Manager Jose Mourinho signed an improved contract until 2020 back in January.
  • Manchester United’s share price continues to rise, despite indifferent Premier League start.
Manchester Utd suffers troubled start to new Premier League season

Manchester United is the world's richest soccer club, with a current valuation of $4 billion, ahead of the Spanish teams Real Madrid and Barcelona.

It also boasts almost double the operating income of its local rival and current Premier League champion Manchester City, but it is finding on-field harmony harder to come by at the start of the new soccer season.

An unconvincing opening game win against Leicester City, was then followed by an embarrassing 3-2 defeat away at Brighton & Hove Albion, which not only intensified pressure on manager Jose Mourinho, but also asked further questions of the Manchester United hierarchy.

The club had a relatively frugal summer in terms of new player signings, with Brazilian midfielder Fred signed for $66 million and one of only two notable incomings.

Mourinho missed out on several other transfer targets including Toby Alderwiereld of Tottenham Hotspur and Harry Maguire of Leicester City, with the club seemingly unwilling to back his spending as much as in previous seasons.

Despite the lack of a marquee signing since the end of last season, Manchester United's share price has still risen by 14 percent to $23.85 since the end of July until just after the defeat at Brighton.

Manager Jose Mourinho of Manchester United watches from the touchline during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Leicester City at Old Trafford on August 10, 2018 in Manchester, United Kingdom.
Matthew Peters | Manchester United | Getty Images

The commercial pulling power of Manchester United continues to spread, including a reported $25 million world record shirt sleeve sponsorship deal with American manufacturer Kohler and an official whisky partnership with Scottish producer Chivas both recently signed.

Much of this sponsorship success can be placed down to the clubs Executive Vice Chairman, Ed Woodward, who gave Mourinho an improved contract until 2020 in January this year. He could also be the man ultimately responsible for whether the Portuguese stays in his role, if results don't improve, with former Real Madrid Head Coach Zinedine Zidane already being linked as a replacement.

Since 2014, when the legendary Alex Ferguson retired as manager after winning the clubs 20th English league championship title, Manchester United has grown as a global brand, but has failed to come close to winning the Premier League or the European Champions League tournament again.

It generated $354 million in commercial revenue during the 2016-17 season, the most among English soccer teams. Helped in part by another record partnership with kit manufacturer Adidas, worth almost $1 billion over 10 years.

Potential crisis at Manchester United after Brighton loss?

No other club makes more than Manchester United on a match day as well, taking in around $143 million per game from the 75,000 fans heading to its Old Trafford Stadium.

The start of the new Premier League season also coincided with the launch of the official Manchester United app, adding another way for its following of 100 million social media followers across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to make "meaningful engagements" with the club.

Mourinho recently described Manchester City's recent Amazon Prime documentary series as "a rich club" that "cannot buy class," but the show that details the team's 100 point record-breaking league season in 2017-18 shows it is striking the right balance between commercial and playing success.

Another difference between the two Manchester clubs is in their structures. United doesn't currently have a director of football as City does, acting as an intermediary between the manager and the board, with Woodward seemingly the nearest thing to it at Old Trafford.

Manchester Utd finished second in the Premier League and reached the final of the F.A. Cup knock-out tournament last season, but that falls below the standards expected of the club. With Liverpool FC among those strengthening in the summer and City looking the team to beat again, United will need to find a way to match its off-field achievements or face more soccer criticism.