Manchester United chief Ed Woodward has been described as the 'Cristiano Ronaldo' of football business in a report commissioned by Consultancy Brand Finance.
Under Woodward's stewardship the Red Devils have become the first team to be valued at over $1 billion, leapfrogging Bayern Munich thanks to an impressive 63 per cent growth.
"Manchester United’s success has been masterminded by Ed Woodward, the Ronaldo of football’s commercial sphere," Brand Finance’s chief executive David Haigh said.
"[Woodward] has capitalised on the brand’s growing power to establish a worldwide fan base and a range of sponsorship deals, unrivalled in their number and value."
Despite the valuation, which comes largely thanks to the club's wealth of commercial sponsors and income from the Premier League's £5 billion TV broadcasting agreement, the Red Devils were third in Deloitte's yearly football rich list behind Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona.
The fact that the Old Trafford club have established themselves as a financial juggernaut ever since being taken over by the Glazer family has bankrolled their spending in the transfer market. After the appointment of Louis van Gaal last year Manchester United shattered their transfer record with a £59.7 million move for Real Madrid winger Angel di Maria as part of a £150 million splurge.
The Dutch boss is expected to do the same when the upcoming transfer window opens, and striker Robin van Persie predicts even more could be spent this time round.
He told reporters: "Manchester United spent £200 million on players last year and they are going to spend another £200 million this summer so we will have a team that can compete for the title."
Many fans wince at the idea of Manchester United being a brand but that's exactly what they are - the purest embodiment of capitalism's grip on football. Some fans won't care one but what happens behind the scenes as long as the best players arrive at Old Trafford and they compete for trophies.
However some have already made their voices heard and formed the increasingly successful FC United, who gained promotion to the Conference North this season.
Football is at a crossroads and fans must decide what they want; the giddy excess of the top clubs or a sense of community and belonging - something which can only be offered by clubs like FC United whose motivating factor isn't the bottom line.
Have Manchester United sold their soul for money?
Do YOU want to write for GiveMeSport? Get started today by signing-up and submitting an article HERE: https://www.givemesport.com/writeforgms