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.

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
Pepper, the 3ft 11in shiny box of circuits who can tell jokes and respond to human emotions
techDavid McNeill tests the mettle of one of the new generation of androids being developed in Tokyo
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice