Man USA: the new brand on tour

Sleekness in Seattle: Old Trafford spreads the gospel - and the charm offensive pays dividends

Despite Uefa's best protestations, the mixed-zone concept has never been fully embraced by European stars. In theory, players should briefly mingle with journalists after each Champions' League fixture to offer their thoughts on the game. In reality, that seldom happens. Some are more inclined than others, but Manchester United have never hurried to put on their Calvin Kleins to face questions.

After United impressed in a 4-0 victory over Celtic in Seattle on Tuesday, the mixed zone was again put to the test. With US sports journalists accustomed to locker-room access and fully expecting the same level of co-operation from the visiting players, something had to change: it did.

Roy Keane was all smiles and graces as he fronted a bank of tiny microphones, while Ruud van Nistelrooy waxed lyrical about Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's telling contribution on the right, and would have probably discussed the Maastricht Treaty had somebody asked the question. In the end, the Dutchman had to be ushered away to eat. Other players weren't so inclined, and loitered like naughty schoolboys, but they'll learn from their more accomplished peers if their employers have their way.

For all their networking and tie-ups with American sponsors, United hit the ground running in the States last week. Offering more substance than the Beckhams, they undertook an ingenious media charm offensive. Want a word with Sir Bobby Charlton, one of the central characters in the tragedy-to-triumph history of the club the local newspapers have been flagging up? No problem. A quote from Ferguson, chief executive Peter Kenyon or marketing director Peter Draper? Fine. United are winning friends, but the week's most personable performance came from Celtic's Martin O'Neill, who joked with the American media about their obsession with strange sports. Like baseball and basketball.

The United circus may have offloaded their star clown to Madrid, but the team always supersedes the individual, the quality of the football being the ultimate benchmark. Against Celtic, United were quality. Ten thousand Canadians were present in the 66,722 crowd, among them the Vancouver Whitecaps team. "You have a lot of respect for those players, watching them every Saturday on TV," said midfielder Alfredo Valente, "but when you actually get to see them live it's a different story. You see how they make things so easy, the way they play the game and the way it flows, with guys working off the ball. Just the little things you pick up from the game will benefit your own game." Another happy punter.

Ferguson noted that not all the fans in the stadium had the same high knowledge, but what was important, he reckoned, was the chance to see his team live. "You don't choose your team, it comes from your father or your grandfather," he said as a pointer to the high numbers of British and Irish expatriates among the crowd.

United are not going to crack America and rival the New York Yankees or the Dallas Cowboys off the back of four exhibition games (Ferguson picked up a journalist on his use of the word "crack") but they can continue to raise the profile of the club to the many consumers they court.

Today, United play in front of a largely Hispanic population when they meet Mexico's biggest side, Club America, in the Los Angeles Coliseum, but before the hype exceeds the reality, tickets are still on sale for the game. Indeed, while there were sabre-rattling reports in the Seattle media of tickets selling out instantly for the Celtic game, those same outlets carried advertisements offering last- minute ticket deals. The Manchester Evening News hasn't been known to carry such advertisements on the morning of United versus Liverpool.

Since United began broadening their commercial horizons with biennial long-haul tours to Asia, Australia or America in 1995, not one of their games has sold out. While there is no shame in not filling the Melbourne Cricket Ground or the 97,000-capacity super-stadium in Kuala Lumpur, the club are still developing ways of extracting money from many of the estimated 40 million fans overseas.

Association football has tried and failed to gain a mainstream foothold in the States before, but United's biggest stroke of luck could be their timing. Most people I have spoken to said two things: that soccer's profile is increasing beyond the core expatriates, and that more kids in the US now play soccer than baseball and American football put together - but many stop at 16, because there is currently no comprehensive structure beyond that. United hope that the momentum is going to take over, and they will be well positioned to cash in when it does.

Pointing out that Juventus, Barcelona, Milan and Celtic were also in the States, I asked Peter Kenyon if Europe's leading lights had thought about trying to breach the American market as a collective. "No," he affirmed confidently. "We're going it alone."

The rich could get richer - and how people will love or loathe them for it.

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little