• Manchester United's Wayne Rooney

Manchester United's Wayne Rooney (Photo : Getty Images Sport)

U.K. soccer team Manchester United has replaced Germany's Bayern Munich as China's most popular team online, according to a new industry report.

The sixth edition of Red Card, which analyzes the influence of 53 European football clubs across Chinese social media platforms, has Arsenal and Liverpool sharing third place with Manchester City on fifth.

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The report also placed the German Bundesliga as the most influential league online.

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo is ranked as the most popular player, followed by Arsenal's Mesut Ozil.

United forward Wayne Rooney, who was previously rumored to be moving to China, also features in the top five along with Old Trafford teammate Anthony Martial.

Real's Wales international Gareth Bale is third, while Lionel Messi is notably missing in the ranking. The Barcelona forward does not have an official social media presence in China.

The report took its data from Chinese social media platforms WeChat and Weibo, the latter dubbed by the international media as a cross between Twitter and Facebook, as well as audience statistics based on live streams of games and the performance of football club websites in China.

"The Premier League is complacent. Its clubs have decent numbers of followers on Weibo, but not as high engagement," David Hornby, head of sport at Mailman which publishes the annual report, told the BBC.

"The Bundesliga clubs are far more active. The German league tells its clubs what to do, whereas the respective Premier League clubs are in control of what they do," he added.

Regarding United's rise to the top in Chinese social media for the first time since the report began, Hornby highlighted the gap between following and engagement.

"[Manchester] United were the most followed, but Bayern were a country mile ahead regarding activity online. But United have taken big strides with fan events and a tour last year," he said.