Manchester United's executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward admitted the team need to perform on the pitch for the club to continue their commercial success.
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.
Woodward admitted the club could ill-afford another year of underachievement because the commercial growth is linked to the team's success.
Woodward said: "The team's performance is central to this business. It allows us to get the great partners."
The club's total income fell by 3.3% to £320.3million for the year ending June 30 2012, 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 £357million 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.
United's wage bill has climbed 7% to £160million, 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 £350million and £360million, 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 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."
Despite the drop in turnover, United actually recorded a profit of £23million though that was entirely due to a tax credit of £28million - without that credit there would have been a £5million 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. The 110million dollars (£68million) received by the club from the IPO proceeds last month were used to reduce the debt, Woodward confirmed.
That represented half of the income from the sale of 10% of the Glazer shares - the other half went to the Glazer family.
United's net debt as of June 30 had swelled by £58million to £366.3million compared to the previous year.
Although gross debt was down from £458.9million to £436.9million, the amount of cash in the bank was also down from £150.6million to £70.6million, leading to the increase in net debt.