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Despite City's title, United still grabs spotlight

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 13, 2014 at 2:31 am •  Published: May 13, 2014
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MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Manchester City has deposed its city rival as Premier League champions for the second time in three years and still isn't close to usurping United's global supremacy — either as a soccer club or as a brand. For many people, the word "Manchester" is automatically followed by "United."

Even Premier League officials marked the end of the season by assuring United's owners, the Florida-based Glazer family, of the team's enduring power.

"They are the world's largest football club in my view with huge resources, with huge determination and a fantastic fan base," league chief executive Richard Scudamore told Sky Sports television. "Of course their time will come again."

However glum United fans felt as the blue half of Manchester celebrated into Monday morning, it's too early to see the humiliating seventh-place finish as the start of a downward spiral. Declarations that the balance of power has shifted in Manchester would be as premature as they were in 2012, when City last wrested the trophy from United only to end the following season 11 points adrift.

United claims to have 659 million fans worldwide; City hasn't even tried to provide an estimate. United has been valued at $2.8 billion by Forbes magazine — behind Real Madrid and Barcelona — while City is the seventh most valuable soccer team at $863 million.

The big difference this time, however, is that there is no Alex Ferguson to plot the reclamation of the trophy. United's fall from grace included failing to qualify for the European club competitions for the first time in 24 years. There are, however, potential silver linings for United in falling short even of the Europa League spots.

With nothing like the TV revenue or prestige of the Champions League, which United won in 1999 and 2008, the Europa League would have been a grueling slog across the continent to play less-illustrious teams in what seems to be a never-ending competition. While United earned about $50 million from the 2012-13 Champions League, it would have generated less than $14 million from UEFA for even winning the Europa League.

Furthermore, missing out on those competitions provides another — possibly much more profitable — way to cope with the loss of TV and ticket revenue. Taking advantage of its massive popularity abroad, United has considered using the midweek breaks to play lucrative, trouble-free exhibitions in the Middle East, which also would provide a paid-for warm-weather break.

United, with Louis van Gaal most likely replacing the fired David Moyes as manager, can focus its resources on the Premier League, and seek to emulate Liverpool's ascent from seventh to second in a year.

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