For both Fenway Sports Group and the Glazer family it is fair to say that they were winning no popularity contests this year in the cities in which their clubs reside.

The Liverpool and Manchester United owners were both key players in the failed bid to get the European Super League plot off the ground back in March, a plan that crashed and burned within 48 hours of it first being presented to the world via a late night social media message.

Both have since renounced the competition and returned to the bosom of UEFA and the European Clubs Association, and have had to start the repair process with the relationship that exists with their respective fan bases.

On the pitch Liverpool are looking menacing this season under Jurgen Klopp, while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Manchester United side looked confused and disjointed.

Off the field, however, it is United who still hold the upper hand when it comes to the size of the clubs as businesses, although the pandemic has played its part in narrowing a gap that Liverpool have long been seeking to close.

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United's revenues in 2019, pre-pandemic, were £627.1m. Liverpool, in comparison, had revenues of £533m thanks in no small part to their phenomenal run to win the Champions League.

But with the pandemic having hit football badly, no club has been immune. Some, however, have fared better than others.

Revenues for United in their latest financials, published quarterly owing to them being a PLC, were down to £494.1m, a drop of 21.1 per cent. Liverpool saw theirs fall from £533m to £490m, a slump of eight per cent, although the Reds' accounts only include the first three months of the pandemic and that drop is expected to rise in the 2021 accounts.

Commercially, though, Liverpool remained robust. They saw a rise of £29m to £217m despite the pandemic and hinted at further rises in the next set of accounts thanks to some key deals with the likes of Nike, Expedia and AXA in late 2019 and early 2020.

United did see a rise, but their £4m jump from £275m to £279m meant that the Reds have closed the previous £87m gap.

The two sides meet at Old Trafford on Sunday in the Premier League (4.30pm kick off) to got toe to toe for the first time this season.

Liverpool sit second in the Premier League and unbeaten after their 5-0 demolition job of Watford last time out, while United are sixth and four points back, their performances this season not doing much to aid Solskjaer's cause.

The Reds have managed to assert themselves at the summit of English football once again while it remains to be seen if United have the staying power to try and address that this season.

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For Klopp's men it has been a steady building of something on and off the field that has enabled such success, FSG's ownership approach to Liverpool being markedly different to that of the Glazers, Avram and Joel, who have distanced themselves from the club but have been able to continue to reap the rewards for little effort. Meanwhile, and much to the ire of United supporters, the debt that they loaded onto the club to purchase in the first place continues to balloon, up 133 per cent to £474.1m according financials released in October.

No Premier League title since 2013, no Champions League title since 2008. Those facts haven't slowed down United's positioning as the biggest financial powerhouse in world football, a club still able to command the biggest and best deals when it comes to sponsorship despite their lack of silverware.

Football finance expert Kieran Maguire, a lecturer at the University of Liverpool and host of the popular Price of Football podcast, told the ECHO: "The Glazers bought Manchester United for £770m and its market capitalisation today is just over £2bn.

"They've tripled their money, they've paid themselves large dividends, they don't have to come to Manchester and they are immune, they kind of use Ed Woodward as a lightning rod for the hostility towards them. As a consequence of that I don't think it will put anybody off (ownership), it hasn't bothered Stan Kroenke at Arsenal, and therefore American investors still see the Premier League as broadly undervalued, especially when you compare it to US franchises.

"If you look at the MLS (Major League Soccer) you have to buy what they call an expansion fee, i.e if you want to bring the MLS to a new city or bring a second club into a city the expansion fee is a minimum of $200m, and then you have to build the club on the back of that. So the Premier League still looks a bargain to American investors, especially if they can force through some of the changes they would like to the game so that they can get the best of both worlds as far as they are concerned."

FSG would no doubt be thrilled to lift themselves up to the commercial levels of Manchester United, but given the status of the club when they took over in 2010 and the lack of comparative success there was, like with their ownership of the Boston Red Sox, a need to establish a winning culture and deliver silverware in order to accelerate other areas of the business.

As with their baseball franchise in Boston, who delivered a first World Series in 86 years two years after Henry et al took over in 2002, statistical analysis and a heightened use of data has been at the heart of driving forward their on-field success.

So how do the approaches compare?

"The Glazer approach has very much been driven by a commercial model," explained Maguire.

"That has been very successful in terms of making Manchester United as a brand more global, and you've got to give them credit for that if you think that is the purpose of a football club.

"The FSG model, the thing that stands out for me is the use of data to identify recruits and develop talent, and that has been very successful. If you look at the profits from players sales when you compare Liverpool to Manchester United then Liverpool are streets ahead. Philippe Coutinho, Luis Suarez, Raheem Sterling and many, many others have proven to be a means of enhancing profits.

"Under FSG the Liverpool model has broadly been to try and break even on a day to day basis. So the money that comes in from commercial, from match day and from broadcasting, that all goes out mainly on talent, mainly in the form of wages and amortisation, and they mainly make their profits from player sales and have been spectacularly successful at doing that.

"Manchester United has always seen itself as an end club, so once you get to Manchester United they aren't looking to sell you on at a profit. They have had to use Manchester United's commercial profits and brand to deliver their profits.

"What we have seen from FSG in the past few years, where they have been very smart, are in things such as the Nike deal and so on. It is indicative and they are now starting to monetise the Liverpool brand, tying it in to success on the pitch.

"Ed Woodward, and I'm sure he regrets these words, said that Manchester United don't have to win games of football to be a commercial success. A similar analogy is that of golf and Tiger Woods, people will come and see Tiger Woods whether he wins or loses at tournaments, that is an irrelevance. Manchester United have achieved that in their attractiveness to commercial sponsors.

"Liverpool have been successful in the sense that everybody has the legacy from the 80s and so on, and that probably meant that Liverpool punched above their weight commercially for a number of years. But the recent success has allowed the club to go out and negotiate enhanced deals with commercial partners and sponsors."

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And what of the future path? FSG's commitment to expand Anfield Road and exploration of new avenues to enhance revenue streams, such as the usage of Anfield for more non-football events all year round, suggest a longer game is being played.

"I suspect FSG still see Liverpool as being undervalued and see scope to grow the club further," said Maguire.

"Liverpool are breaking even in an operational basis in a non-COVID world so there is no need to put in huge sums of money, they have seen the benefits of an expanded Anfield and they'll do that again. There are lots of benefits."

A version of this article first appeared on the ECHO on January 15, 2021.