Louis van Gaal
Ed Woodward is thought to be the commercial genius behind United's success Getty Images

Manchester United FC, which came fourth in this season's Premier League, has become the first football club worth more than $1bn (£650m, €890m), a study by Brand Finance announced.

The club's brand value is now worth more than $1.2bn and it overtook last year's number one and number two, respectively Bayern Munuch and Real Madrid, despite Bayern ending on top of the Bundesliga table this season, and Real only just finishing behind Barcelona in Spain's Liga.

Manchester United's brand, based on sponsorships, broadcasting revenue and matchday sales, has been on the rise for a long time and is based on a rich history, according to Austin Houlihan, a Sports Business Group director at Deloitte.

10 most valuable football clubs

  1. Manchester United - $1,206bn
  2. Bayern Munich - $933m
  3. Real Madrid - $873m
  4. Manchester City - $800m
  5. Chelsea - $795m
  6. FC Barcelona - $773m
  7. Arsenal - $703m
  8. Liverpool - $577m
  9. Paris Saint-Germain FC - $541m
  10. Tottenham - $360m

Source: Brand Finance

"For a club like Manchester United, there are various things that underpin their brand. One is obviously their strong history and on-pitch success. They also have a very domestic foundation in the UK and a strong overseas brand."

Six out of the top 10 most valuable football club brands were English, according to Brand Finance. Only the three bottom teams in this year's league table (Hull, QPR and Burnley) were not in the international top 40.

It is United's widespread success and historic fanbase that helped them become a top player financially, despite not being the leader in the league table, according to Houlihan.

"The thing that has really helped Man U grow their revenue over the last years is that they get a substantial amount of money through the home matches at Old Trafford, they also benefit from broadcasting revenue, in particular the premier league central deals, but where it has significantly grown and differentiated itself from its competition is through commercial revenue," he said.

Football, the world's most popular sport, has become a multibillion dollar business because of sponsorships, betting deals and broadcasting rights. The involvement of major brands has enabled football clubs to expand and become global businesses.

Although Man U 'only' finished fourth in the Premier League and the 2014/15 season was the first one since 1989/90 that the club did not compete in any European tournaments, their fanbase and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward (who has been branded the 'Ronaldo of football's commercial sphere') gave the assists needed for the club to become a billion dollar business.

"Obviously, being successful on the pitch and qualifying for the Champion's League enables a club to attract players," Houlihan said. "At the same time, clubs like Manchester United have built their fanbase and whole existence over a long period of time and even if they don't achieve great results, that won't evaporate just over time."