NEW YORK — Manchester United’s North American tour in 1950 was by all means a meager one, with manager Matt Busby’s group playing in front of crowds largely under 10,000 in places like rural Macomb, Ill., or Public Schools Stadium in St. Louis.
Six decades later, it’s safe to assume the club’s whirlwind tour in July will be something more befitting for the powerhouse franchise.
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson and chief executive David Gill kicked off the tour’s festivities in earnest on Tuesday, greeting the media at a posh Manhattan hotel and offering up an abbreviated state of the union address on United’s upcoming return to American and Canadian soil.
The Red Devils will play four matches during their roughly three-week tour, punctuated by an appearance opposite the MLS All-Stars on July 28 in Houston. (Vote for the MLS All-Stars now!) ManU will also suit up for exhibitions against Scottish side Celtic FC on July 16 in Toronto, the Philadelphia Union at Lincoln Financial Field on July 21 and the Kansas City Wizards at Arrowhead Stadium on July 25.
The tour begins July 12 with training sessions at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill., while meeting with new Chicago-based corporate jersey sponsor Aon.
“At the point we’re seeing now, within MLS and soccer now, we’re talking about a team in Kansas [City] we’re going to play against,” Ferguson said. “Well, that was not on the radar a couple years ago … So you can see the spread of the game.”
Manchester United last visited the States in 2004, when they played three friendlies against other European squads. The 2010 tour marks the first time the Red Devils will suit up against MLS foes, following the club’s tour opener against Celtic FC. They return stateside after coming up short this season in the run for titles in the Premiership, the FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League.
“We’re looking to forward to it,” Ferguson said. “At the stage we’re at now … we’d love to get the show on the road. And that means our concentration, our intent, our rhythm of the game has got to be found quickly after a disappointing last season.”
While Ferguson stressed that the club’s American fans should expect to see the club’s established stars like Ryan Giggs or Edwin van der Sar, they’ll also likely get a glimpse of youngster Javier “Chicharito” Hernández, the Guadalajara-born striker who became the first Mexican in the club’s storied history in April.
Ferguson said he expects Hernández to join the club sometime after Mexico wraps up play in the World Cup, and that he’s hopeful Chicharito will suit up for the team against the Union.
“He’s young, and I think he can handle coming into training with the team,” Ferguson said. “The most important part is to integrate him with the squad, because he doesn’t know any of the players. So it’s an important period to get him to join us.”
United will wrap up their North American tour on July 30 in Guadalajara, christening CD Chivas’ new Estadio Chivas.