Manchester United: Pre-season starts here
David Moyes’ Manchester United squad left the city on Wednesday bound for Bangkok, with fixtures to follow in Sydney, Yokohama, Osaka, Hong Kong and Stockholm before the new season begins. And as ever, with commercial imperatives forefront of mind, Moyes’ squad will travel more than 25,000 miles before the Community Shield kicks off against Wigan Athletic on 11 August.
Indeed, this is not a tour where United will be stretched on the field, with the Reds facing an oddball collection of ‘All Star’ exhibition outfits and local teams in Asia and beyond before returning to Europe. Moyes’ side will not meet top quality opposition until Sevilla visits Old Trafford for Rio Ferdinand’s testimonial just 48 hours before United heads to London for the Shield. Same old pre-season then.
United may not enjoy the kind of world-class facilities on offer during last year’s equally commercially minded tour of the United States, although with huge support across Asia, it won’t take Moyes and his newly recruited backroom staff long to discover the size of the task at hand. United’s popularity is still unparalleled on the global stage.
But whatever the quality of opposition on offer, or the facilities at hand, the tour will at least provide an invaluable opportunity for those on the fringes of United’s squad to impress; the youngsters who may, or may not, have a key role to play in the season ahead.
It is also a pivotal few days for some of United’s more established stars – to play their way into the team or potentially out of the club. Eyes will be firmly fixed on Anderson, Nani and Wilfried Zaha in particular.
Moreover, after 56 days since United ended the 2012/13 season, supporters are looking forward to the Reds reappearing. Here’s Rant’s guide to the United’s opposition, venues and the players to watch on tour.
Singha All Star XI – the All Star XI is a representative side of the Thai Premier League managed by Dr. Vichit Yamboonruang who, bizarrely, is director of the League. Yamboonruang will be assisted by former Thailand international Piyapong Pue-on. Players on show could include Spaniard Carmelo González, Filipino Javier Patiño and local star Teeratep Winothai. Or not. Frankly Rant doesn’t know either. Still, it should be a gentle warm-up for Moyes’ side.
Australian A-League All Stars – the A-League is yet to capture the nation’s hearts, but with Union, Aussie Rules, Cricket and especially League all on offer, that is perhaps little surprise. Yet, the national team has qualified for World Cup 2014 and there are a smattering of decent players likely to feature against United in Sydney. Italian legend Alessandro del Piero, Emile Heskey and former Red Liam Miller could all start. It should be an interesting challenge.
Yokohama F·Marinos – Marinos remain one of the most successful top-tier Japanese clubs, having won the J-League three times and finished second twice in the 20 year professional era. Formed by the merger of Yokohama Marinos and Yokohama Flügels in 1999, the club is owned by the Nissan Motor Company. In common with many J-League teams, the team is staffed by local players with a smattering of Brazilians. Captain Shunsuke Nakamura boasts 98 caps for the national team, while veteran Yuji Nakazawa appeared more than 100 times for Japan before retirement three years ago.