Manchester United are seeking to establish themselves as the Premier League club of choice in Argentina, after signing two of the country’s leading players gives them the chance to compensate for the commercial loss caused by Mexican Javier Hernandez’s departure.
The match between Gerardo Martino’s Argentinian side and the Portugal team at Old Trafford on November 18 is a result of United’s purposeful attempts to develop a relationship with the South American country, following the signing of Angel di Maria and Marcos Rojo.
The fixture, in next month’s international break, is not thought likely to draw a capacity audience to Old Trafford, with 50,000 considered a likely attendance, though the prospect of Lionel Messi facing Cristiano Ronaldo would enhance the appeal and could push that figure higher.
United’s attempts to build relations with the Argentine Football Federation comes as they seek new commercial avenues after the loss of Hernandez on loan to Real Madrid deprived them of a player with huge commercial worth. The player became an overnight money-making phenomenon for United when he signed in 2011.
The initial production run of "Chicharito" replica shirts, which was supposed to satisfy Mexican demand for a full year, had sold out inside two months and United overtook Barcelona as Nike’s most popular team in Mexico. The next shirt production run increased by 300 per cent.
The prospect of a strong link between United and Argentina comes after Sir Alex Ferguson questioned the wisdom of signing players from that country. In his autobiography, he wrote of his “difficult” time managing Argentinians.
He described the problems handling Juan Sebastian Veron, saying the midfield star didn't make an effort to learn English during his two years at Old Trafford after his then British record £28.1m move.
Ferguson wrote: "I confess I found working with Argentinian footballers quite difficult. There was deep patriotism towards Argentina. They always had the flag round them. I had no problem with that, but the ones I managed didn't try particularly hard to speak English. With Veron it was just, 'Mister'."
But United have broken the transfer record again to bring in Di Maria from Real Madrid and then signed Rojo for £16m from Sporting Lisbon. United have not yet announced details of the friendly fixture.
Their commercial efforts in the Far East have been bolstered by Park Ji-Sung’s signing as a club ambassador – a develop considered significant enough for Sir Alex Ferguson to present him to supporters on the Old Trafford pitch before Sunday’s match with Everton.
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