Manchester United may trail title rivals Manchester City in the Premier League, but at least in China they continue to reign supreme.
Named the richest football club in the world last week, United have retained the mantle of being the best-performing European football club online in the burgeoning market in the seventh annual Red Card report by Shanghai-based sports consultancy Mailman.
United are the most followed club on Chinese social media site Sina Weibo – they have 9.22m followers, 1m more than any other European club – and on mobile app WeChat.
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Despite struggling in the Premier League and not even competing in the Champions League, United's WeChat account gained over three times as many reads as European champions Real Madrid – the second most popular account on WeChat – helping the story of their Europa League triumph to become the most read article about a European football club on the platform .
"With over 107m followers, China is one of Manchester United's most important markets and we have a long history of innovation and fan engagement," said United's chief executive of media Phil Lynch.
"Through data analysis, geo-specific content creation and on-the-ground activities, we continue to be the most followed football club on China's major social media platforms Sina Weibo and WeChat.
"We are honoured to receive the Red Card award for the second consecutive year and we are excited about the ongoing opportunities to innovate and build our brand, allowing our fans in China to interact with the club and our products."
Anthony Martial tops Premier League players
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United have two of the top five players online in China according to Mailman, with Anthony Martial named the most popular Premier League player in the country ahead of Paul Pogba.
Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi, who did not even make the top five last year, now tops the list after he toured China and announced plans for a $220m theme park in the country.
Both Arsenal's Mesut Ozil and Gareth Bale, of Real Madrid and Wales, have been pushed out of the top five while Martial's goalscoring performances this season have seen move to third ahead of Pogba in fourth and former United teammate Wayne Rooney in fifth.
Bundesliga bests the Premier League
Yet United's popularity was not enough to see the Premier League dislodge the Bundesliga as the best-performing league in China.
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The German league, which had four of its representatives tour China this summer, has a busy social media presence in the country with 60 per cent higher social media output than the Premier League, La Liga and Ligue 1.
Mailman named the "Bundesliga Dream" social media campaign, which gave fans the chance to submit their personal dreams of experiencing the league with the chance of having them realised, as the best of the year.