United's travails are not confined to the pitch as a surge in Bayern Munich's revenues pushed the Old Trafford club out of the top three for the first time since 1997
The Premier League is not the only table that will make grim reading in the Manchester United boardroom, after Deloitte's annual Money League showed the club had been leapfrogged by Bayern Munich in terms of revenue generated.
Throughout United's continuing travails in managing the difficult shift from the Sir Alex Ferguson era to that of David Moyes, much has been made of their ability to continue to generate enough income to help smooth the transition. Commercial revenue has surged in recent years as the club have signed a raft of regional sponsorship deals across a range of categories. But the annual report, which measures the income of the biggest clubs in Europe, shows United fell out of the top three in 2012-13 for the first time since the list was compiled in 1996-97.
United topped that first list but have been overtaken by first Real Madrid and then Barcelona in the past nine years, largely as a result of the ability of the Spanish giants to negotiate their own TV deals – which weakens the competitiveness of La Liga but boosts the pair's own coffers.
Bayern Munich's stellar 2012-13 season, in which the German club won the treble and dominated European football, helped boost their revenues by 17% to £396.6m. That growth allowed them to leapfrog United, who earned £363.2m.
Prize money from winning the Champions League, together with matchday income from a sold-out Allianz Arena and a focus on commercial deals, including the renewal of a shirt sponsorship deal with Deutsche Telekom, all helped.
However, United are likely to again overtake the German champions in next year's Money League, as the new £5.5bn Premier League television deals and a series of commercial deals including a $559m (£337m) contract with Chevrolet are factored in for the first time.
The figures underline the importance of Champions League football to maintaining revenues. A continued absence from the top European competition, disproportionately important for English clubs given the greater equality in the division of domestic television money, would also have an impact on United's commercial deals in the long term.
Real Madrid remain the top-earning club in Europe for the ninth consecutive year, despite a trophyless season, posting revenues of £444.7m, ahead of Barcelona with £413.6m.
Annual revenue has become a far more important barometer of a club's likely success with the introduction of Uefa's financial fair play rules, which seek to force clubs to spend only within their means. Critics fear that the rules will in effect lock in the existing order, with only those clubs able to generate large commercial and matchday income able to compete on a regular basis.
Under the rules, clubs must break even within an allowable leeway of €45m over the first two-year evaluation period. That figure then drops to €45m over three years and then €30m over three years on a rolling basis. But it has also raised questions over Uefa's ability to police its own rules, a quandary demonstrated by Paris Saint-Germain's surge into fifth place in the Money League.
The French club's revenue has almost quadrupled to £341.8m since 2010-11 and almost doubled in the past year alone – taking from 10th to fifth place. That figure includes commercial revenue of £208.5m – the highest single revenue source from a football club. As well as raising question marks about the likely future competitiveness of the French top division, the figures will generate fresh scrutiny of the engine of that commercial growth – sponsorship deals with companies linked to its Qatari owners, including a deal with the Qatar Tourism Authority worth up to £164m a year.
"PSG are the fastest climber in this year's Money League, claiming the highest ever position for a French club. They are the country's sole representative in this year's top 20," said Austin Houlihan, a partner in the Sport Business Group at Deloitte.
"We expect to see them become a mainstay in the top five in years to come, backed by their ambitious Qatari owners and strong commercial support. The high-profile signing of David Beckham in the second half of the 2012-13 season only served to enhance the club's worldwide profile."
Manchester City, whose earlier sponsorship deal with Etihad raised similar questions from rivals, leapfrog Chelsea and Arsenal in the Deloitte Money League for the first time to claim sixth place.
Although Liverpool's revenues grew by 8%, they fell out of the top 10 for the first time since 1999-2000. They too are likely to return to the top 10 next season once the Premier League's new bumper broadcast deals kick in.
Deloitte also highlighted the fact that while the "big five" leagues in Europe continued to dominate, there were signs that clubs from other parts of the world were beginning to challenge.
"Whilst clubs from the 'big five' leagues continue to dominate the Money League, Galatasaray and Fenerbahce's presence, and Brazilian club Corinthians in the top 30, highlight the growing challenge of clubs from emerging markets," Houlihan said.
"The growth of their respective economies, their populations' passion for the game, and their developing football infrastructure all contribute to a strong revenue growth for the biggest clubs in these markets."
The list also highlights the extent to which commercial income has become disproportionately important to the biggest clubs. Dan Jones, lead partner at the sport business group at Deloitte, said: "In this year's listing of the 20 clubs, 11 of them have received more money from commercial activities than any other source. It is evidence of the fact these are now huge global clubs with which commercial partners really want to partner with. That is the revenue source the clubs can drive themselves with minimal outlay."