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.

News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Bruce, left, with Cream bandmates Ginger Rogers, centre, and Eric Clapton in 1967
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker