Manchester United drop to third in Forbes' world's most valuable sports teams list

Nassos Stylianou
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Only thing that Louis van Gaal has to do is get United winning again (Source: Getty)

They may be signing up sponsors like they're going out of fashion this week, but Manchester United have dropped one place to third in the annual Forbes list of the world's most valuable sports teams.

The Premier League club have endured their worst season for over two decades, finishing seventh and missing out on a Champions League spot for the first time since 1996, and that seems to have been reflected in a depreciation in their value, based on calculations by Forbes.

Manchester United's value fell from $3.2bn (£1.8bn) in 2013, when they were ranked second in the list, to $2.8bn (£1.6bn) this year. This meant that the club, owned by the Glazer family since their leveraged takeover in 2005, fell to third place, overtaken by La Liga giants Barcelona.

Real Madrid, who beat city rivals Atletico to claim their 10th European championship crown in May, remain top of the tree with a value of $3.4bn (£2bn), up $0.1bn from last year.

In making the list, Forbes calculates the value of the teams based on equity, debt and stadium deals. According to their statistics, Manchester United's revenue in the year to May 2014 was £322m and their operating income stands at £96m.

After a turbulent year on the field since Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement, the Red Devils are likely to see their revenues take a small hit this season. The club's absence from Europe's premier club competition is likely to cost them in the region of around £50m, according to calculations from accountants and sports finance specialists Deloitte. Furthermore, finishing seventh in the league, their lowest finish in over twenty years, meant United received £7m less in Premier League prize money compared to the previous season, when they won their 20th championship title.

But should they avert a prolonged period outside the lucrative competition, and the hiring of Louis van Gaal has raised expectations that they will bounce straight bank into the top four, then United shareholders should not worry too much.

In terms of the club's finances, one season out of the European elite is unlikely to have a lasting impact, especially in light of the flurry of bumper commercial deals signed over the last few months. The £327m shirt sponsorship signed with General Motors (Chevrolet) earlier this year, which sees the US car maker's name and logo emblazoned over the club's jersey for the next seven seasons, and the world record £75m a year kit deal with German sportswear giant Adidas announced this week are certainly encouraging signs.

The fear that a season of underperformance was likely to deal a crucial blow to United's commercial clout that has made the United brand so alluring to sponsors worldwide for years seems to have been unfounded.

In fact, United's share price this week was at its highest level than at any stage since the Glazers listed ten per cent of the club on the New York Stock exchange in the summer of 2012.The stock jumped almost five per cent after the deal was announced and recorded its record high this week.

So while United may have been the brunt of many rival fan jokes last season and subject to speculation about investors losing confidence in the club following the departure of Sir Alex, it looks like the Manchester United brand and its ability to raise millions for the club in commercial deals is very much alive and kicking.

All that is left now is for Louis van Gaal to get United back to winning again.

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