Manchester United excite fans in Australia - with 17,000 buying tickets to watch a training session

The Premier League champions are to play an A-League All Star XI on Saturday

While frenzied discussions over the future of Wayne Rooney and possible transfer targets swirled around the Internet, it was business as usual for Manchester United on their lucrative trip to Australia today.

After training, most of the squad opted for a round of golf, whale watching on the Pacific Ocean or a trip to Sydney's Taronga Zoo as they continue the build-up to Saturday's second match of their pre-season tour.

That the match, against an A-League All Star XI captained by Brett Emerton, is already an 84,000 sell-out is testament to the interest the English champions have attracted on their first visit to Australia since 1999.

In fact, with 17,000 of the 20,000 tickets available to watch United's training session on Friday already snapped up, a bigger crowd was expected for that than most games in the powerhouse National Rugby League (NRL), a Football Federation Australia (FFA) spokesman pointed out.

There were slim pickings for die-hard United fans keen to make the most of the presence of their heroes in Sydney on Wednesday, however, but a couple of hundred got the chance to meet Rio Ferdinand at a book shop.

The price of the meeting was the A$40 ($36.93) purchase of a copy of the central defender's new book "Rio, my decade as a Red" and the red-shirted fans were more than happy to pay it.

"It's fantastic to see the fans getting the chance to meet the players and so on," said Mark O'Connor, chairman of the Manchester United Supporters Club New South Wales, clutching his copy.

"I'm not getting much sleep at the moment ... it shows the rest of the world that Man U is as big Down Under as it is on the other side."

'ICING ON THE CAKE'

While the club's motivation for the five-match pre-season tour is clear - get in touch with their fans in the Asia-Pacific and bank a few million dollars - the traffic is not all one way.

Soccer has long trailed rugby league in New South Wales, Australian Rules in Victoria as well as rugby union nationwide in the pecking order of football codes.

But the arrival of United and Liverpool, who play in Melbourne next week, have helped maintain the profile of the round-ball game at the end of a stellar season for the local A-League and recent success for the national team.

"In terms of media exposure for this kind of thing, the interest has been unprecedented," the FFA spokesman added.

"And coming after the Socceroos qualified for the World Cup last month, this is just the icing on the cake."

For the rest of Wednesday in Sydney at least, however, soccer and United will take second billing behind the third game in the State of Origin rugby league series between New South Wales and Queensland.

The United players will be at the match at the sold-out Olympic Stadium to see if New South Wales can win the interstate bragging rights for the first time since 2005.

That is almost as long as Rooney has been at United and a straw poll of the fans in the Sydney book shop on Wednesday indicated most were resigned to the fact that his spell at the club was coming to a close.

The 27-year-old striker was sent home from the tour with a hamstring injury and is, according to British media reports, "angered and confused" by new manager David Moyes's hint he would not be first choice this season.

"I'd love him to settle down and see out his days at Old Trafford," O'Connor added. "But if he's not happy, just let him go."

Reuters

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Extras
indybest
News
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
education
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
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

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
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
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
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
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform