The Rich Loser: How Did Manchester United Maintain Its Popularity Despite The Failure?


The surprisingly shocking answer is that Manchester United have not been able to maintain its popularity over the last decade. In fact, the club's popularity declined due to repeated failures, and the emergence of more attractive champions at the football level such as Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool, in addition to the two permanent guests on the popularity lists in recent years; Real Madrid and Barcelona.

What really happened is that Manchester United managed to maintain its brand value despite the miserable performance of its team, in a way that is completely out of step with the general climate in European football.

In January 2013, for example, the Red Devils owned the first sports club worth more than $3 billion, according to Forbes, as the most expensive sports entity in the world, and this value continued to rise until 2020 when the same magazine reported that Manchester United became the third in the ranking, behind Real Madrid and Barcelona directly, tied for first place with 4 billion dollars, and Manchester United behind them, with a difference of only 200 million dollars.

Imagine for a moment that Real Madrid needed to win four Champions League titles, two league titles, and a huge number of various minor titles and that Barcelona needed to win four league titles, a treble in 2015, and a huge number of cups, in order to be able to overtake Manchester United in commercial value by Only $ 200 million, equivalent to what Real Madrid and Barcelona spent to sign Hazard and Coutinho, respectively.

This excessive power, which goes beyond the logic of football itself, and does not need to win trophies, or even compete for them, or even perform well, in order to inflate its brand, did not begin in recent years, but, in fact, was the harvest of a long history of economic supremacy And the media on the peers of the Red Devils in England and abroad.

Misfortunes of a People

Before Munich we were just a football club. After that, everyone owned a part of Manchester United.

  • Sir Bobby Charlton, ambassador of the club and one of the nine survivors of the accident

About a quarter of a century before Cruyff was a guest at Barcelona, ​​and he established the famous academy that gave the club global fame and sympathy, Sir Matt Busby was trying to achieve the same feat at Manchester United. The Busby Babes team that caught the attention of the continent in the 1950s was based on the same idea; A group of local players who grew up in the club and grew up in its academy, and carried their ideas and traditional English style of play into the first team.

Prior to this generation, Manchester United resembled many English clubs that took turns winning domestic titles at the turn of the 20th century. Two league titles, one FA cup and another for the Community Shield, that's all that the club's treasury contained, and these titles go back to one generation active in the period between 1907-1911, then it went away irrevocably, and without a real indication of the continuation of these successes and building on them.

At a time when Real Madrid was collecting gems from around the world to set its crown of outstanding global talents, such as Puskas, Di Stefano and Gento, the idea of ​​"The Busby Babes" had a special character, a charming character that created a countercurrent, in which people were enthusiastic about the party. The weaker one does not have the funds or government support but is able to succeed nonetheless.

Sam Bilger tells in his famous book "The Treasures of Manchester United" that all this was not enough for Manchester United to gain global popularity, and that the first stop that turned the club into a well-known symbol was the Munich tragedy; The plane that crashed after taking off from the German city, and exploded carrying 8 members of the historic Busby generation.

For a moment, Manchester United made global headlines for reasons that had nothing to do with football. The ugliness of the disaster generated a global current of sympathy and interest that turned a football team into something more than that, says Sir Bobby Charlton in the book.

The disaster created a different narrative about the team, one that Bill Foulkes, Charlton's teammate and survivor, describes as a true legend. The disaster created an emotional aura around the club and linked its fate to the fate of many sympathizers who remained interested in what would happen to him after he lost most of his team's strength.

Manchester Phoenix

Within a few years, Charlton was leading another great generation of Manchester United himself with Denis Law and George Best. Rising from the ashes as a survivor, the Phoenix managed to win two more league titles and one UEFA Champions League, and Foulkes' legend was confirmed in the global collective consciousness. If the tragedy won the sympathy of the whole world because of its ugliness, then the return of Manchester United from the dead doubled this sympathy because of its magnificence.

Sam Bilger believes that coincidence has a role in this, especially since Manchester United remained the most popular club in England even in the seventies and eighties when the historic Liverpool generation was eating green and dry locally and continentally, and this was due to another tragic coincidence called the Heysel disaster.

In 1985, about an hour before the Champions League final between Liverpool and Juventus in the Belgian capital, Brussels, skirmishes intensified between the fans of the two teams in the stands of Heysel Stadium, and then, according to official accounts, a group of drunk "Hooligans" penetrated the barrier separating the two audiences, pushing Juventus fans to flee, until one of the walls holding the stands collapsed, taking with it 39 lives lost under the rubble, most of them Bianconeri fans.

With the same speed and manner, this incident angered everyone against Liverpool and its fans, inside and outside England, especially since the sanctions package that the European Union imposed on the team included banning English clubs in general from participating in the Champions League for a period of five years.

After a full 37 years have passed, the Heysel disaster is still at the heart of the mass conflict between United and Liverpool, as the fans of the first know that they have benefited from it indirectly, and the fans of the second feel unfair because they were guilty of a bunch of hooligans in Brussels, especially since that moment spoiled years of success. Resounding locally and continentally, Liverpool failed to invest globally because of Heysel.

After that came the Ferguson era, but more on that in tomorrow's post.


Which football clubs have the most fans? Goal
Manchester United becomes first team valued at $3 billion - Forbes
After the death of Harry Gregg..Sir Bobby Charlton becomes the last surviving survivor of the Munich disaster - The Daily Mail
Who are the Busy Babes? Goal
The Busby Babes; In memory of the eight who fell in the Munich disaster - Skysports
book by sam bulger; Manchester United Treasures - Amazon
How does Manchester United exploit its brand in an exceptional and unique way? - Bleacher Report
Heysel Stadium disaster: "I watched the piles of bodies go up!" - The Guardian
Heysel; Liverpool and Juventus fans remember the disaster that claimed the lives of 39 fans - The Mirror
Soccernomics Book by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski - Amazon
The evolution of the value of Premier League broadcasting contracts between 1992 and 2019 – Statista
The Bamboo Giant Boosts book by LeRoan Simmons - Amazon
Bayern Munich Money Saving Tricks - Athletic Interest
Wealthy giant Manchester United adds insane profits to the Glazers and shareholders – Goal
No titles, but Manchester United is still the king of brands - Brand Finance
Manchester United growing attractive to advertisers and sponsors despite hardships on the field - Marketing Week


It’s a bit like a musician or movie star who dies young and has fans eulogising about how great they would have been. The Busby Babes are the James Dean of football