A report has revealed that Manchester United are still the biggest football club online in China, with Anthony Martial emerging as the most popular player behind Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Man United have established a fanatic following in China having first visited in 1975, with their last visit – to Shanghai and Beijing – impeded by bad weather, much to the frustration of Jose Mourinho.
And despite not winning the Premier League since 2013 and only reaching the Champions League knockout stages twice since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure, the seventh annual Red Card report by Mailman has revealed that United remain the biggest online presence in the most populous country in the world.
Google, Facebook, Twitter and Youtube – along with Radio Australia, for some reason – are all still banned in mainland China, which means that most Chinese people aren’t even aware of the Martial FC movement.
More importantly, though, the enduring power of the United badge in China, even without the biggest social media outlets available, is a reminder of just how much reach and depth this club has all over the world – especially in Asia, where millions of diehard supporters will stay up all night to watch their team regardless of circumstance (just imagine, for a second, having to watch a Louis van Gaal performance at 5am, just bloody imagine that).
However, if you’re from China and reading this (I don’t think The Peoples Person is banned), don’t expect to see the first team arriving on your shores any time soon, with Ed Woodward recently explaining why United have chosen to spend pre-season in the United States instead.
“Visiting North America will give the team the best possible preparation for the new season, using top-class training facilities and playing in some great stadiums,” he said.
“We have witnessed first-hand the passion and support for the club in the US in recent years, so naturally it is something that everybody is very much looking forward to this summer.”