Sir Alex surprised, encouraged by Sounders' attendances

Sir Alex Ferguson

Photo Credit: 
SoundersFC.com

SEATTLE — A jovial Sir Alex Ferguson stepped into a press conference at the Four Seasons Hotel just after his team arrived from Boston last Thursday, welcoming the attendees and catching up with some old friends, including former Derby County player Alan Hinton.  

The venerable Manchester United manager stated his pleasure to be back in the city of Seattle after eight years. Ferguson, who will celebrate his 25th year in charge of the English club later this year, last brought team club to Emerald City in 2003.

The opponent that year was Scottish club Celtic, with 66,722 fans watching the match at then-Qwest Field. It will be a little different this time around; instead of the green-and-white hoops of Celtic, the opponents will be wearing the Rave Green of the Seattle Sounders (Wednesday, 10 p.m. ET; FOX Soccer).

When it was mentioned that Seattle’s average attendance would place ninth in the English Premier League, Ferguson commented on the growth of the game in the United States.

“The figures you’ve given me are a surprise to me,” Ferguson said Thursday. “That’s a very encouraging sign that soccer is working here. When we came here and played Celtic, you could understand it from the stadium there was a great incentive to go forward from there and now you’re seeing the fruits of that. An average crowd of 37,000 is very, very healthy.”

In the first few days in Seattle, the Manchester United entourage has been busy enjoying the best Seattle has to offer.

In addition to training at the NFL Seahawks’ Virginia Mason Athletic Center in the mornings, Rio Ferdinand, Ji-Sung Park and Nemanja Vidic attended a Friday night event at NikeTown. New signing Phil Jones and three other players joined the squad that evening as the players continued to train over the weekend.

While Ferguson attended Seattle’s thrilling 4-3 victory against the Colorado Rapids Saturday afternoon, a handful of players, including Wayne Rooney, enjoyed a round of golf. Saturday night included a visit to Dale Chihuly’s glass-blowing studio as the city rolled out the red carpet for the Red Devils.

Spanish goalkeeper David de Gea, who’s expected to take the reins from the retired Edwin van der Sar, arrived Sunday.

After training at the Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., Manchester United will have one final training session in Seattle before Wednesday's match.

Andrew Winner covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewWinnerMLS