United fielded a strong side in Hong Kong's national stadium - despite the absence of Gary Neville, Roy Keane, David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer - that proved simply too strong for their hosts. They snatched control early on with two goals in the space of four minutes: Sheringham opening the scoring after 22 minutes when he fired home a Cole pull-back, and the former Tottenham striker returning the favour when he unselfishly squared to Cole and the unmarked England striker gave the South China goalkeeper, Mick Leonard, no chance from close range.
South China's only chance in the first half came from Leung Chi-wing, whose long-range shot was tipped away by Mark Bosnich. For the most part, however, the Far East side were simply unable to achieve any real rhythm, and the former Notts County and Chesterfield goalkeeper Leonard again came to his side's rescue before the break with a fine save from Cruyff.
South China were more competitive after the break, but United still crafted the better chances. Dwight Yorke, playing behind Cole and Sheringham, sent a 20-yard effort just wide on 65 minutes and Cole fired over moments later after being put through by Sheringham. Leonard again saved well late on from Cruyff to keep the scoreline respectable.
The biggest battle for Alex Ferguson's side, however, ended up being Hong Kong's ferocious heat and humidity. "I'm absolutely exhausted and all I did was throw three water bottles on to the pitch," said the assistant manager Steve McClaren. The tour captain Denis Irwin described the blazing 80F-plus temperature and even higher humidity as conditions "which we're not normally used to."
The Irish international was also quick to defend the tour, claiming that it had been a success and that it had helped to get United back into the form which saw them win the Treble last season. "We're getting there," he said.
Meanwhile, there was some better news for Ferguson from England on the matter of Roy Keane's new contract. The Old Trafford captain said yesterday that he is "confident" that he will still be a Manchester United player this season.
Keane has already rejected United's initial offer, prompting speculation that he would be leaving the club, but Keane insists the ball is now in the club's court for an improved offer. "I'm confident we can sort it out now but it is up to the club really," said Keane. "People are speculating about what I am looking for but it is no one's business except my family and my solicitor's.
"I've just moved into a new house. I have three young children and I love playing for United. I could have gone abroad three years ago for a lot more money but I felt I hadn't proved myself at United. This time I want to make sure that this contract is right."
Keane admits that he wants to stay with United but talks are on hold until the club's chief executive, Martin Edwards, and director Maurice Watkins return from the tour.
Manchester United: Bosnich, Berg, Clegg, Cruyff, Blomqvist, Cole, Yorke, Sheringham, Irwin, May, Stam.
South China: Leonard, Yao, Cristiano, Araujo, Cheng, Kee, Chan, Poon, Shum, Leung, Agbo.Reuse content