Manchester United's annual turnover fell for the first time in the Glazer era as the club paid the price for a disappointing season on the pitch.
United's executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward admitted the club could ill-afford another year of underachievement because commercial growth is linked to the team's success.
The club's total income fell by 3.3% to £320.3million for the year ending 30 June 2012 - expected after United's failure to make the knockout stages of the Champions League last season.
But the commercial growth of the club has continued apace, and when the money from the incredible £357m shirt sponsorship deal with Chevrolet starts to flow, not to mention the Premier League's £3billion-plus TV deal, it may be that 2011/12 is just a blip on an otherwise upward chart - especially if the team keep their good start to the season going.
Woodward told a conference call with investors: "The team's performance is central to this business. It allows us to get the great partners."
United's wage bill has climbed 7% to £160m, and has just crept over the 50%-of-turnover mark, though club officials are confident it will drop back below that mark next season.
For the first time, revenue from commercial income exceeded that from broadcast and matchday income.
United are predicting turnover will rise by nearly 10% next year to between £350m and £360m, based on the assumption the club reaches the quarter-finals of the Champions League and FA Cup.
Apart from the Chevrolet deal, which kicks in from 2014 but starts providing cash next year, United's deal with Nike expires in 2015 and looks likely to be renegotiated next year.
A United spokesman said: told the Press Association: "The annual results are consistent with what we expected. We strongly believe the outstanding results in the commercial sector demonstrate the huge potential the club has, and the financial outlook is very positive."
The growth in income from sponsorship and commercial deals has certainly cushioned the blow of the shortfall from the Champions League and FA Cup compared to the previous season.
Commercial revenue was up 13.7% to £117.6m, while broadcast revenue was down 11.3% to £104m and matchday revenue down 10.9% to £98.7m.
A Manchester United plc statement said: "Broadcasting revenues for the year decreased... primarily as a result of our elimination at the group stages of the Champions League.
"In addition, we earned minimal revenues from the FA Cup following our fourth-round exit, compared with reaching the semi-final in the previous year.
"Matchday revenues for the year decreased... as a result of having played four fewer home games compared with the prior season when we also received a share of the gate receipts from the Champions League final and FA Cup semi-final, both of which were held at Wembley Stadium."
Despite the drop in turnover, United actually recorded a profit of £23m though that was entirely due to a tax credit of £28m - without that credit there would have been a £5m loss.
Woodward also said United expected that "a substantial increase" in the value of the Premier League's overseas TV rights will be announced later this year.
He added: "In addition, we continued to strengthen our team by signing world-class players such as Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa over the summer."
The value of Kagawa off the pitch as well as on has been reflected by the fact that of the eight new commercial deals signed by United since 1 July, four have been with Japanese companies.
Woodward said half of the club's commercial revenue is likely to come from Asia in the future.
The £68million received by the club from initial public offering (IPO) proceeds last month - the club has been partially floated on the New York Stock Exchange - was used to reduce the debt, Woodward confirmed.
That sum represented half of the income from the sale of 10% of the Glazer shares - the other half went to the Glazer family, who have been in charge of the club since 2005.
United's net debt as of 30 June had swelled by £58m to £366.3m compared to the previous year.
Although gross debt was down from £458.9m to £436.9m, the amount of cash in the bank was also down from £150.6m to £70.6m, leading to the increase in net debt.