This Wednesday, Manchester United will face Shanghai Shenhua in a game that’s likely to set pulses racing. There are an estimated 70-100 million United fans in China, so, despite Shenhua being the home side, expect the stadium to be a sea of red. Pre-season friendlies are usually pretty tepid affairs, but both sides have points to prove. Last season, United finished trophy-less for the first time in seven years, having been pipped to the post on the final day of the Premier League by their rivals Manchester City. Combine this with the traditional pre-season battle for places and you can expect a competitive United side to come out of the tunnel on Wednesday.
Shenhua meanwhile have had a poor season so far, languishing as they are in the bottom half of the table. However, with the arrival of European Cup-winner Didier Drogba, they might see Wednesday as a potential springboard for their season. Having come off the bench last night to play a pivotal role in Shanghai’s rescuing of a draw against Guangzhou, his and Nicholas Anelka’s Premier League experience will be vital if this isn’t going to be a completely one-sided affair.
Last week, Forbes announced that Manchester United are the richest sports team in the world and tours such as this one play a big part in that-having a physical presence in the Far East is essential if the world’s biggest market is going to keep buying all those shirts. With this in mind, some fans might be disappointed that some of the Red Devils’ biggest stars won’t be making the trip. One of the most recognizable faces in football, Wayne Rooney, will be staying at home, as will fan-favorite Ryan Giggs.
This will be allayed somewhat by the presence of 23-year-old Shinji Kagawa. The most expensive Asian footballer of all time signed for Manchester this summer for RMB200m from Borussia Dortmund. Hailed as the Japanese Messi for his skill and tenacity, many fans will be keen to see how he slots into the United midfield.
Manchester’s Rio Ferdinand and Didier Drogba played against each other for eight years in England, and in that time the two players had a lot of tussles. Despite there being an age gap of only one year between the players, the Ivorian has decided to follow the money and retire to Shanghai, while Ferdinand still has a place in one of Europe’s strongest teams. It will be interesting to see whether any of this translates onto the pitch.
For many of the young Shenhua players, this will be a chance of a lifetime, representing as it does the only time they will probably play against stars of the caliber that play for United. Hopefully, the occasion won’t prove too intimidating and they’ll be able to make the Shanghai fans proud, playing with the kind of freedom coach Sergio Batista has attempted to instill in his team since taking over.
Whether you’re a die-hard football fan or not, when one of the world’s most decorated sports teams comes to town, it’s worth watching for the spectacle alone. With Drogba expected to start his first game for Shenhua, expect the atmosphere inside the Shanghai Stadium to be electric.
What: Shanghai vs. Manchester
When: Wednesday July 25
Where: Shanghai Stadium
How Much: Tickets range from RMB180-1680
Alternatively, buy your ticket from The Apartment and RMB100 bus tickets get you a lift to and from the game, plus one free drink at after-game party at Geisha.
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