The Manchester United chief executive, Ed Woodward, will attempt to thrash out a compromise with Louis van Gaal to ensure that the club continue overseas pre-season tours, despite the new manager claiming they are damaging football preparations.
Van Gaal has re-opened his attack on the way he sees sponsors impinging on his pre-season work here, insisting that there was “more or less” a conflict of interests and declaring that “United will do everything to adapt to my new rules.”
Van Gaal has strengthened his attack on the way he sees sponsors impinging on his pre-season work here, declaring that United are “maybe... too big a club. Not only in a sporting sense but also commercially. We have to do a lot of things that normally I don't allow. I have to adapt to this big club but I think also this big club has to adapt to Louis van Gaal. I hope we can have some balance to that.”
With a possible total travelling distance of 13,471 miles, coast-to-coast across the United States, this summer's club tour is one of the shortest by distance for years. Last summer United covered 24,000 miles and in 2012 they cleared 22,000 miles.
Woodward, who has left the tour to resume work in the UK, is expected to argue in his discussion with Van Gaal that United have more fans in the United States than in Britain and that the club’s business model is hugely contingent on the American and Asian fan bases.
Video: Manchester United in the USA
Speaking shortly before Van Gaal complained of “commercial activities and dreadful distances, having to fly a lot and the jet lag, it is not very positive for a good preparation”, Woodward said that the manager would have an input into next year’s pre-season plans. “America and Asia are the two core places we tend to go to and both of them deliver a huge amount,” Woodward said. “The Premier League has been very clear in saying America is the No 1 developing market. This is a very good country [for us] from a potential sponsorship perspective, a potential media perspective. We’ve got more fans here than we have in the UK.
“The core of the tour is preparation for the season. That remains the core. That is the central part. One of the things we will do differently [before the next] tour is sit down with Louis very early. [He will] tell us how he wants the tour to be constructed. He will give us the skeleton of the tour.” Asked if Van Gaal would have a say in where United go next year, Woodward replied: “We will discuss that with him.”
United, who played LA Galaxy in Van Gaal’s first match as manager overnight, fly to Denver afterwards for the second of the tour’s four legs – a game with Roma – before moving on to Washington, undertaking substantial commercial work in Detroit, home of new kit sponsor Chevrolet, and possibly playing in Miami if they reach the final of the International Champions Cup. The 110,000 tickets for the game with Real Madrid in the Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor sold out in two hours.
Wayne Rooney reflected on the changing size of the fan base when he spoke to United States radio station Sirius FM. “It’s been a massive change since the first time we came here with the team. Every time we’ve come back it’s grown and grown,” he said, suggesting that the US’s World Cup success had triggered even more interest.
Van Gaal has said that it will be four months before he can assess whether the seventh place United achieved under David Moyes last season was an under-achievement. “I cannot judge that because I am also new in the Premier League and when you see the Premier League there are also a lot of clubs capable of playing a higher level football, and also the financial situation for the clubs in the Premier League,” he said. “They have much more chance to buy players – much more than for example the Dutch teams. To be the champion in the Premier League is much more difficult than in the Netherlands or Germany.
“Because in Germany you don’t have so much money as in the Premier League to give out. I have to wait three or four months to give you a clearer answer.”