United cash in Down Under
17 July 2013, 12:11
Sydney - While frenzied discussions over the future of Wayne Rooney
and possible transfer targets swirled around the Internet, it was
business as usual for Manchester United on their lucrative trip to
Australia on Wednesday.
After training, most of the squad opted
for a round of golf, whale watching on the Pacific Ocean or a trip to
Sydney's Taronga Zoo as they continue the build-up to Saturday's second
match of their pre-season tour.
That the match, against an
A-League All Star XI captained by Brett Emerton, is already an 84 000
sell-out is testament to the interest the English champions have
attracted on their first visit to Australia since 1999.
with 17 000 of the 20 000 tickets available to watch United's training
session on Friday already snapped up, a bigger crowd was expected for
that than most games in the powerhouse National Rugby League (NRL), a
Football Federation Australia (FFA) spokesperson pointed out.
were slim pickings for die-hard United fans keen to make the most of
the presence of their heroes in Sydney on Wednesday, however, but a
couple of hundred got the chance to meet Rio Ferdinand at a book shop.
price of the meeting was the A$40 ($36.93) purchase of a copy of the
central defender's new book "Rio, my decade as a Red" and the
red-shirted fans were more than happy to pay it.
to see the fans getting the chance to meet the players and so on," said
Mark O'Connor, chairperson of the Manchester United Supporters Club New
South Wales, clutching his copy.
"I'm not getting much sleep at
the moment ... it shows the rest of the world that Man U is as big Down
Under as it is on the other side."
While the club's
motivation for the five-match pre-season tour is clear - get in touch
with their fans in the Asia-Pacific and bank a few million dollars - the
traffic is not all one way.
Soccer has long trailed rugby league
in New South Wales, Australian Rules in Victoria as well as rugby union
nationwide in the pecking order of football codes.
But the arrival
of United and Liverpool, who play in Melbourne next week, have helped
maintain the profile of the round-ball game at the end of a stellar
season for the local A-League and recent success for the national team.
"In terms of media exposure for this kind of thing, the interest has been unprecedented," the FFA spokesperson added.
"And coming after the Socceroos qualified for the World Cup last month, this is just the icing on the cake."
the rest of Wednesday in Sydney at least, however, soccer and United
will take second billing behind the third game in the State of Origin
rugby league series between New South Wales and Queensland.
United players will be at the match at the sold-out Olympic Stadium to
see if New South Wales can win the interstate bragging rights for the
first time since 2005.
That is almost as long as Rooney has been
at United and a straw poll of the fans in the Sydney book shop on
Wednesday indicated most were resigned to the fact that his spell at the
club was coming to a close.
The 27-year-old striker was sent home
from the tour with a hamstring injury and is, according to British
media reports, "angered and confused" by new manager David Moyes's hint
he would not be first choice this season.
"I'd love him to settle down and see out his days at Old Trafford," O'Connor added. "But if he's not happy, just let him go."
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