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 Tuesday, November 30
Man U remains world's richest club
 
By Mike Collett
Reuters

 TOKYO -- Manchester United's 1-0 victory over Brazil's Palmeiras in the World Club Cup final left the English side world champion, both on and off the field.

United retained the position of world's richest club when a survey of the world's top clubs, compiled by accountants Deloitte and Touche and British soccer magazine FourFourTwo, was published on Wednesday.

No other club can match United -- either on the playing arena on the big occasion or in the financial arena. Not even Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona, nor AC Milan or Juventus in Italy come close.

Last month United reported a 20 percent rise in profits, with annual turnover reaching 110.7 million pounds ($176.4 million).

That followed last season's treble success when United won the European Cup and the English cup and league double -- and victory on Tuesday in the World Club final against Palmeiras can only increase the demand from fans for every type of souvenir associated with the club.

Last season's profits came to 22.4 million pounds ($35.69 million) and although that was slightly down from the previous season, United will soon have an additional way of generating cash.

From the start of next season, Old Trafford's capacity will rise to 67,400 from its current capacity of 55,000. Old Trafford is already the biggest club ground in English soccer; next year it will be among the biggest club grounds in Europe.

Although few United fans made it to Tokyo for Tuesday's match, there were hundreds of Japanese fans in United replica shirts.

Just like their English counterparts, the fans had the names of the United players on their backs, with that of England midfielder David Beckham far outstripping everyone else.

Every time Beckham took a free kick or corner, thousands of camera flashlights around the stadium sparkled into life.

United fan Rei Masaki, 17, from Tokyo explained why she was wearing Beckham's name on the back of a shirt of a club that plays in a league thousands of kilometers away.

"I follow all of United's matches on satellite when I can, but have never seen them play before. But they are such a glamorous team and it makes you feel special to see them. I go to some J.League games, but United are my team.

"I feel like I am a part of the club tonight, and my dream is to one day go to Old Trafford and see them play there."

She will be lucky to do that. United's home matches are sold out months in advance -- and even an expanded Old Trafford will largely cater to season-ticket holders.

Tuesday's victory was United's 13th major honor of the 1990s -- but even during the 1970s and 1980s when the club failed to win a league title, never mind the European or World titles, it always had that sheen of glamour that never left its mark on the all-conquering Liverpool team of that era.

United's unique attraction is easy to define -- it appeals to fans of all ages for different reasons -- and so many opposing fans dislike them with such an intensity that victories taste even sweeter for United's followers when they come.

Many middle-aged and older fans started supporting United in 1958, when eight of the Busby Babes team were killed in the Munich air crash.

In the 1960s, the exploits of Denis Law, George Best and Bobby Charlton captured the European Cup and the imagination of millions more.

There was a magic about that side, and although it inevitably faded, fans stayed faithful during the relatively lean years of the next two decades.

In the 1990s, five English titles, four F.A. Cups, three English cup and league doubles, the European Cup and now the World Club title are all bringing in a younger generation of fans -- and keeping the cash registers ringing.
 



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