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Manchester United: Embracing the Global Game

Last Updated: August 3, 2023
Manchester United wrapped up its US tour this week as over 200,000 fans from around the country came to see them.

Manchester United completed its four-city US summer friendlies tour on Sunday, leaving Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas with a 3-2 loss to Borussia Dortmund. Although Erik ten Hag’s men return to the United Kingdom with just one win out of four, the club got plenty out of its trip overseas.

The Manchester United tour started in the northeast on July 22 against rival Arsenal at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Thanks to first-half goals from newly appointed captain Bruno Fernandes and Jadon Sancho, it was a strong start to the team’s first visit to the United States since 2018. Not to mention, it happened in front of a sold-out crowd. In fact, nearly a quarter of a million American fans turned out to watch Manchester United play its four matches.

Manchester United Tour: American Attendance
  • vs. Arsenal in East Rutherford: 82,262 fans
  • vs. Wrexham in San Diego: 33,000 fans
  • vs. Real Madrid in Houston: 67,801 fans
  • vs. Dortmund in Las Vegas: 50,857 fans

“The Premier League and Manchester United got so popular over the years that we can go on tour everywhere in the world now and receive a great fan following,” retired United midfielder Bryan Robson told Boardroom. “But coming to the States is really special. The fan base is getting bigger and bigger, and the stadiums are great. Soccer is a global game, and United is a global club.”

When Manchester United started the tour in the northeast, Marriott Hotels, the club’s Official Hospitality Partner, hosted a matchday viewing party at Hudson Yards. The event featured an iconic double-decker bus splashed with United signage and the classic red hue added to the ambiance of fans decked in their favorite home kits. In addition to the bus, guests dined on traditional pub fare and drinks. It served as evidence — beyond attendance numbers themselves — of Manchester United’s international draw and its growing brand in the US. The tour continued in San Diego where Marriott Bonvoy and Marriott Hotels debuted their United, Near and Far taxis that took fans around San Diego in advance of the Wrexham match. Robson, who is also a Marriott ambassador, even made an appearance.

Summer friendlies tours as a whole, however, continue to be the subject of debate. United midfielder Christian Eriksen wasn’t so keen on the miles the club accumulated in such a short amount of time, admitting to MUTV that “There’s been a lot of games and too much traveling, to be honest.”

However, the 31-year-old lauded the supporters that traveled alongside them and vowed to correct mistakes ahead of the forthcoming Premier League season. Ten Hag, on the other hand, reiterated that every match his side plays is vital.

“We don’t play friendly games,” the former Ajax boss told Boardroom. “We have good Premier League and European opponents we are facing. No matter the result, it is very good to compete with them because we can test ourselves and know where we are competitive. That is the main objective, figuring out where our strengths lie and working on precision. You want to raise the bar.”

Another benefit to a summer friendlies junket is the acclimation of new signings to current players. Beating out Liverpool and Arsenal, United successfully poached Mason Mount from Chelsea in July for £55M ($69.5M) with a further £5M ($6.3M) in add-ons. After 12 years with veteran goalkeeper David de Gea, the 13-time Premier League champions bid adieu to the Spaniard and completed the signing of goalkeeper André Onana from Inter Milan. The Cameroonian’s deal is worth £43.9M ($57.4M) for five years at Old Trafford.

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“I think we’ve made a couple of really good signings in the last few weeks. But the main thing that I think we need is a center forward to score more goals for us,” Robson said. “Because that’s where we fell down last year defensively as a team. We look really good, but we were about 20-30 goals behind Manchester City, even Newcastle and Arsenal. So we have to make sure that we close that gap and we score a lot more goals to make us competitive.”

Those woes may soon be talks of the past. Word is, United has its new forward in Atalanta striker Rasmus Höjlund. ESPN reported over the weekend that the 20-year-old is headed to England for £64M ($82M) plus another £8m ($10M) in incentives.

Regardless of how United fares in the transfer conversations or matchday results, it isn’t deterring the fans from shelling out millions to support the team. A June report by Reuters suggested that Man United could increase its market worth by up to $2 billion should it continue making smart investments on a worldwide level. The outlet says United boasts about 650 million fans across the world, some of whom are desperate to move forward from the Glazer family and their less-than-responsible reign of 18 years as owners. On Monday, United also announced it extended its apparel partnership with Adidas, this time valued at £900M ($1.2 billion) for 10 years.

A sale of the club to a group shepherded by Qatar’s Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al-Thani is looming, but an increase in profit ensures long-term success for the storied club. More money for transfers, the potential for exclusive partners. Keep in mind, not all of those 650M fans will visit Old Trafford — some may be content with solely watching the Red Devils from home. Regardless, the opportunities are endless. In the meantime, the current roster has to do its job on the pitch in order to find prosperity off it.

Manchester United opens the 2023-24 Premier League season against Wolves on Monday, Aug. 14 at 3 p.m. ET at Old Trafford.

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About The Author
Vinciane Ngomsi
Vinciane Ngomsi
Vinciane Ngomsi is a Staff Writer at Boardroom. She began her career in sports journalism with bylines at SB Nation, USA Today, and most recently Yahoo. She received a bachelor's degree in Political Science from Truman State University, and when she's not watching old clips of Serena Williams' best matches, she is likely perfecting her signature chocolate chip cookie recipe or preparing a traditional Cameroonian meal.