MANCHESTER United yesterday faced a crushing off-the-field defeat at the hands of Irish consumers as the club was forced to close its Dublin "megastore".
The 15,000 sqft shop and restaurant in the heart of the city was forced to shut because of poor sales.
Insiders at the Old Trafford club blamed the closure on disappointing sales, adding the store was located on a busy street with high levels of passing traffic, but few pedestrians.
But, United said a new store would be opening in Dublin’s Henry Street in August when the Premiership club’s massive merchandising deal with Nike kicks in.
The closure comes as Manchester United said it had abandoned its Irish retail partner, Roches Stores, and replaced it with the Champion group.
Champion will be able to distribute merchandise to Irish consumers through its national distribution network.
The club saw worldwide merchandise sales worth 22 million last year and has retail outlets from Manchester and Dublin through to Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Cape Town.
Manchester United is also considering stores in Hong Kong and Bangkok to capitalise on its worldwide popularity.
The flagship Dublin store was opened just a year and a half ago amid massive fanfare with a crowd of 5,000 supporters cheering on stars including Gary Neville, Mark Bosnich - now with Chelsea - Irish international Roy Keane and club manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
Underneath the "megastore" the club built a "Red Cafe" where as many as 120 fans could gather to watch matches.
Manchester United is a massive international business as well as a football club and employs 540 people.
In the year to the end of July 2001, it netted pre-tax profits of 21.8 million
The football team is also part owner of its own TV channel dedicated to covering Manchester, MUTV, in a joint venture with BSkyB and Granada.
Shares in Manchester United, like the majority of football clubs, have performed poorly over the last year and have plummeted in value by 30 per cent.
Their poor performance comes against a background of increasing wages and spiralling transfer fees.
Accountancy firm Deloitte and Touche recently showed Manchester United at the top of the global "rich list" of clubs by turnover with a total of 117 million.
The rich list was dominated by English Premiership clubs and Italian Serie A teams, including Juventus and AC Milan, with many club’s turnovers boosted by massive TV deals.