Yet while the horror show could haunt United hierarchy in the years to come the humiliating defeat might also have confirmed executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward’s dream signing for the club.
The United chief along with transfer negotiator Matt Judge came in for criticism after an underwhelming summer transfer window at Old Trafford, but will reference the difficult financial climate as reasoning to anyone who perceived slow movement.
There is a default stance amongst many social media users to hammer Woodward whenever they feel United have performed a wrongdoing in the transfer market, but few can critique the executive vice-chairman for his commercial growth at the club.
From partnerships with coffee machines, to mattresses and now even a Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) provider Woodward has grown the commercial size of United into a behemoth which sets them apart from most other elite football teams.
Purely in terms of a marketing point of view Woodward can be seen as nothing other than a success at Old Trafford, but to praise him wildly would be negligent to the footballing matters which continue to play catch-up. For an average fan the commercial side of things don’t matter at all and while United remain trophyless at first-team level there is little solace offered from announcements of new partnership deals being agreed.
Next week’s quarterly investors call will lift the lid on how coronavirus has really affected the daily running at United with matchday revenues gone and commercial earnings expected to be slashed by the closure of the world famous megastore.
There will no doubt be praise for the five new summer signings as well, but for Woodward his role ultimately lies within the worldwide brand of the club and ensuring value remains high even if the football doesn’t have such global appeal.
In the coming months there will no doubt be a surge of interest from South America with Edinson Cavani, Facundo Pellistri and Alex Telles now part of the first-team squad, but Woodward will still be targeting growth in the Asian market where a power shift is taking place.
The dream for United would be a high-profile first-team signing who both fulfils the transfer criteria of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and offers huge marketing appeal. His name his Son Heung-min and over the last two weeks he has proven himself on both fronts.
Son’s clinical brace for Tottenham proved pivotal in their dismantling of United nearly a fortnight ago as he took his overall tally to 59 goals in 164 Premier League matches for Spurs with his reputation secured as one of the Premier League’s top talents.
However, his impact has gone far beyond the pitch for, with research from Nielsen Fan Insights showing he has emphatically lead the North London club to not only overtake but gulf United in terms of popularity in South Korea.
United’s previous popularity in the nation was driven by former player Park Ji-sung during his seven years in Manchester but it counts for little now with Son by far the number one sports personality in his homeland.
In the space of five years Tottenham have overtaken Arsenal, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Barcelona and now United as the most popular club in the market with 21.4 percent of South Korean’s supporting Tottenham compared with 6.1 percent following second-placed United.
While it might sound crass to supporters there is clear interest from United to sign players who fulfil both on-field and off-field criteria, with none more suitable than Son.
United’s commitment to the Chinese market will continue to pay off with a large audience share there, but with Tottenham now comfortably the biggest side in South Korea there is no ignoring the threat posed by non-traditional rivals.
The ultimate concern at Old Trafford will remain getting the first-team squad back to the perch upon which they so comfortably used to sit, but if an opportunity to ever sign someone like Son comes about Woodward would be negligent to ignore it. Maybe one day the dream will come true.