The Red Devils knocked perennial German champions Bayern Munich from their perch as the most influential online team in China, according to Red Card 2017, a comprehensive "off the pitch" football analysis produced by Shanghai-based Mailman Group.
The sixth edition of Red Card analyzed the influence of 53 leading European clubs across eight different performance indicators including social media presence, live streaming capabilities, and e-commerce.
Although Manchester United hasn't been the Premier League top dog since 2013, its commercial direction in China has been world beating with the club building upon its long history of Chinese fan engagement in dynamic and social media savvy ways.
The club's successful preseason tour to China in the summer of 2016, its partnership with Sina Sports allowing the spread of custom produced content, and its ability to connect authentically with a staggering 8.8m online following have proved paramount for growth.
However, despite Premier League teams occupying four of the top five spots, Germany's Bundesliga retains the title of boasting the strongest digital presence of any European football league in China. The Bundesliga has built on the success of its national team and attracted a young and dynamic audience through a Chinese language website that stay on top of social media trends and interests.
The rapid popularity of live streaming for Chinese fans was one of the report's focal points with Mailman Group CEO Andrew Collins stressing its importance in his editor's note.
"With 300 million users, live streaming has emerged as the hottest trend. Consumers are now being spoilt with new forms of original programming."
The development of over 200 live streaming platforms captures the level of Chinese domestic demand for high-quality streams. Yet, with less than a quarter of the teams analyzed having published a live stream in China, there is certainly a great deal of room for growth.
The report also listed the world's most influential players with Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo, or C Luo as he referred to in China, heading the list. Arsenal and Germany's Mesut Ozil placed second, with Manchester United's Wayne Rooney, recently repeatedly linked with a transfer to the CLS, occupying fifth place.