Manchester United is the most valuable soccer brand in the world - globally huge as far as the Far East: the world's richest club, with the highest turnover, the biggest profits, the widest fan base and, over recent years, the best players and the greatest success on the field. But recently the business has hit vicissitudes and even crisis. Its star player, David Beckham, was sold to Real Madrid in Spain. Its record buy, the prodigiously talented young Wayne Rooney, has developed an unenviable disciplinary record. This year the club - a listed Stock Exchange plc - succumbed to a controversial takeover by Malcolm Glazer, the American tycoon who bought the football team in Tampa and turned them into champions. Now their shirt sponsors, Vodafone, are withdrawing their support, Manchester United have just been eliminated from the Champions' League and all prospect of European football for the first time in a decade, the high-spending Chelsea have usurped their position at the top of the Premiership, and even their hallowed manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, is finding his position under question. Now Mihir Bose tells the full story of this extraordinary financial behemoth of sport.