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Is United's Off-Field Success Contributing To Their Struggles?

Mon 24th Apr 2017 | Football Club Management

If you look at Manchester United's recent history, there is a clear distinction between the club's on and off-field performance.

More specifically, while the club has struggled to achieve success on the pitch since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, they have continued to develop their commercial prowess and become increasingly profitable as a business venture.

But has this off-field success created a lack of perspective at Old Trafford, and is it preventing them from re-establishing themselves as one of the best teams in Europe?

The Facts and Figures: Highlighting the Contrast Between United's On and Off-field Performance

Although United may have won two trophies in the last three seasons (while also remaining in contention for the Europa League this year), they have also recorded disappointing league finishes of 7th, 4th and 5th during this time. They have also failed to reach the Champions League during two of these three seasons, and it remains to be seen whether they can return to Europe's elite competition this time around.

Despite this, the same three years have seen immense commercial growth at Old Trafford, with the Reds now established as the single richest club in the world. United achieved annual revenue of $703 million during the last financial year, thanks largely to their lucrative new deal with Adidas and a host of innovative commercial agreements that included the monetisation of the club's training shirts.

Are United Hungry Enough for On-field Success?

This creates a stark contrast, and one that seemingly makes United's on-field success less important from a commercial perspective. As if to amplify this, the Reds managed to attract three of the best players in the world last summer (namely Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba), while spending a world record £89 million on the latter after a protracted transfer negotiation.

This was without the lure of Champions League competition, or the assurance that they would return to the tournament at the end of this season.

In fact, United remain fifth in the league with seven games to go, and while they have games in hand on the teams above them, many of the the 10 bet bookies in the UK make them outsiders to secure a top four place. They continue to be linked with some of Europe's top players like Antoine Griezmann, however, while there is no suggestion that the club will need to restrict its spending if they fail to reach the Champions League either through the EPL or by winning the Europa League this year.

The Last Word: Do the Reds Need to Recover Their Edge? 

With these points in mind, it may be argued that United's off-field strength and growth is impacting negatively on the on-field performance. This appears to have blunted the team's edge and desire, and it is something the Jose Mourinho must continue to combat if he is to achieve his own objectives at the club.

This may also become more pressing as the years' progress, as the club's sustained absence from Europe's elite tournament would surely impact on their finances and appeal over time.

At the end of the day, without a change in attitudes, the club will simply become a stepping stone in an elite player’s career to earn huge over inflated wages while being under no pressure to perform. Di Maria, Falcao and Depay are all notable examples.

Posted by: Aaron Gourley 

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