United were dominant on and off the field with Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez, Wayne Rooney, and Park Ji-sung in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
While the Premier League grew in popularity across the world, this combination drew admirers from new markets like China, South Korea, Japan, and India.
The narrative now contrasts United’s demise with City’s success and rising Asian fan base.
While Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Agüero, and David Silva are or have been world-class, City now have a genuine worldwide megastar in their Norwegian striker for the first time.
Asian fans of European clubs are often perceived to be more interested in individual players rather than teams and flock to those that win and turn their backs on those that don’t. Haaland helps on both counts
Liverpool-supporting Thanamahamongkhol Kritikorn of Sporting News Thailand has seen nothing like it. “He’s too good to be hated and even other clubs’ fans respect him,” he says.
“His popularity is now more than that of a mere athlete and even girls who don’t watch football are asking, ‘Who is this guy?’”
Local City fans agree. “This year, there are a lot of people wearing City jerseys on the streets of Bangkok,” says the Thailand-based Chutidet Prasarnsange.
“You can’t buy the shirt as easily as you could before and those who do buy it all need Haaland’s name on the back.”
There is a similar story not far to the west in India. “Haaland has pulled plenty into the Indian fanbase, and will continue doing so … he has been celebrated in the Indian sports media.” says Jaidev Tripathy from the Manchester City Delhi Supporters Club.
Tripathy claims that City’s new star is ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo in shirt popularity in India. “The demand for Haaland jerseys is high.”
With 11 million followers on Weibo, a Twitter-like site and a widely used if rudimentary indicator in China, United leads Chelsea and Barcelona.
City, on the other hand, is fourth with 9.25m, more than double that of Real Madrid and Liverpool.
There, Haaland is major news, and his own standing has risen as a result of his move from the Bundesliga to a league with a larger global exposure, creating a vicious or virtuous cycle, depending on who you support.