Manchester United’s pre-season tour kicks off in South Africa this evening against Durban side AmaZulu FC.
For the South African supporters it’s a long awaited return since their last trip in 2008; but United have made a few visits over to the country in the Premier League years. We take a look at the tours that have happened since 1993.
United’s first game in 1993 was in Johannesburg and came against Premier League rivals Arsenal. Arsenal were becoming familiar opponents; with Sir Alex Ferguson’s team winning the first league title the club had seen for 26 years, and Arsenal winning a domestic Cup double under George Graham, the two were destined to meet in the Charity Shield at Wembley. Yet their pre-season’s kicked off against each other at Ellis Park.
25th July 1993 – Arsenal – Lost 0-2, at Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Line up : Schmeichel, Parker, Irwin, Bruce, Phelan, Keane, Robson, Blackmore (Darren Ferguson), McClair, Hughes, Giggs
In events which may sound familiar to readers, Ferguson bemoaned decisions from the referee to award Arsenal two penalties which were both converted by Ian Wright. The decisions were both against Steve Bruce; the first for an obstruction offence which the manager felt was an indirect free kick at worst, and the second for handball which United thought was accidental. The second half saw more controversy as Denis Irwin saw an appeal for handball in the area turned away; the resulting argument saw Irwin put his hands on the referee, and Bryan Robson was sent off for using foul and abusive language. As was the norm for United and Arsenal, the fixture was far from friendly, with McClair also being booked and Roy Keane – on his United debut – being involved in an altercation with Martin Keown. The game was won 2-0 by Arsenal to kick off the “United Bank International Soccer Festival”.
Incidentally; United had faced Arsenal at the end of the previous season in a thrilling testimonial game for David O’Leary at Highbury which finished 4-4 and featured Peter Schmeichel playing outfield for a period!
29th July 1993 – Kaiser Chiefs – Drew 1-1, at Fnb Stadium, Johannesburg
Line up : Schmeichel, Parker, Irwin, Bruce, Phelan, Keane, Robson, Blackmore (Beckham), McClair (O’Kane), Dublin, Ferguson
In a far less stormy game, United and Kaiser Chiefs played out a 1-1 draw – the Reds scoring just after the 55th minute through Dion Dublin, before the hosts equalised through Leseyane. David Beckham and John O’Kane made appearances from the bench; a far cry from the wholesale changes you would expect to see in the modern game.
It would be thirteen years until the club returned to South Africa, although one or two familiar faces were still at Old Trafford. Sir Alex might have been trying to figure out what he would do about the Rooney and Ronaldo World Cup situation in 2006 but with both of them having been on international duty they weren’t part of his initial squads for pre-season.
15th July 2006 – Orlando Pirates – Won 4-0, in Durban
Line up : Foster, Bardsley, Brown, O’Shea (Evans), Evra, Fletcher, Scholes (Miller), Giggs (D.Jones), Richardson (Eagles), Solskjaer (Dong), Rossi
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer scored twice and a goal from Kieran Richardson was added to by a Seema own goal to give the visitors a comprehensive 4-0 win – Giuseppe Rossi was heavily involved in Solskjaer’s goals, as United’s pre-season got off to a winnng start in front of 40,000 supporters.
18th July 2006 – Kaiser Chiefs – Won 1-0 at Newlands Stadium, Cape Town
Line up : Foster, Simpson, Brown, O’Shea, Evra, Fletcher, Scholes (D.Jones), Giggs (Eagles), Richardson, Rossi (Gibson) , Solskjaer (Dong)
A rematch from almost thirteen years ago almost threatened to end in a similar stalemate, with United looking far less impotent than they had three days prior, but with the game entering the final minutes, Darren Fletcher broke into the box and created an opportunity for Dong to smash home a late winner.
22nd July 2006 – Kaiser Chiefs – Drew 0-0 at Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Cape Town
Line up : Steele (Foster), Bardsley, Brown, Evans, Evra, Fletcher (Miller), Scholes, Giggs, Richardson, Rossi (D. Jones) , Dong (Eagles)
The final of the Vodacom Challenge Trophy was another poor clash; Dong was rewarded for his winner in the previous game with a start but missed a hatful of chances in the first half that would have put the game out of sight. Ben Foster replaced Luke Steele with the game going to penalties – while Jones, Evra and Richardson converted their kicks, Chris Eagles’ tame effort was saved and Foster’s own penalty kick struck the crossbar, meaning that the Chiefs gained revenge for the loss with a 4-3 penalty shoot out win.
The Chiefs were becoming familiar opponents and it wouldn’t be too long until the two clubs were locking horns again.
19th July 2008 – Kaiser Chiefs – Drew 1-1 at Newlands Stadium
Line up : Kuszczak, Neville (Simpson), Vidic, Brown (Evans), O’Shea, Fletcher, Scholes, Giggs, Eagles (Campbell), Tevez, Rooney (Gibson )
United had already played a pre-season friendly at Aberdeen prior to travelling – minus the Euro 2008 contingent, a tournament England did not qualify for. The Chiefs were again worthy opponents, pushing United all the way – Tshabalala won a penalty that Quartey converted before half time and the Reds needed a Chris Eagles equaliser in the second half to rescue the draw. Wayne Rooney was leading the resurgence after half time but after one or two feisty moments – he’d been booked when he might have been sent off – he was replaced by Gibson and the game petered out for another draw.
22nd July 2008 – Orlando Pirates – Won 1-0 at Absa Stadium, Durban
Line up : Foster, Brown, Ferdinand, Evans (Simpson), Silvestre (O’Shea), Eagles, Carrick (Scholes), Gibson (Fletcher), Martin, Tevez (Rooney), Campbell
Once more United utilised their squad, naming numerous changes and making many substitutes. The Red Devils needed to win to get to the final of the Vodacom Challenge and they were up against opposition that wanted it just as much; Orlando Pirates’ rivalry with Kaiser Chiefs needs no explanation, and the Pirates were well up for the encounter.
Despite them making it difficult, and United not helping themselves with the changes, there was a clear class difference and once they got the lead halfway through the first half through Lee Martin, they were never going to relinquish the advantage.
26th July 2008 – Kaiser Chiefs, Won 4-0 at Loftus Versfeld Stadium
Line up – Kuszczak, Simpson, Vidic (Evans), Cathcart, O’Shea, Fletcher (Gibson), Carrick (Scholes), Possebon (Cleverley), Martin (Eagles), Giggs (Campbell), Rooney (Tevez)
Another pre-season game, another raft of changes. United’s line up was perhaps half-dictated by the fact that the very next day they were due to play in Nigeria against Portsmouth as part of the proposed plans for the “39th Premier League” game. That embarrassment to the British game would have to wait (an embarrassment to the Premier League, I might add, not to United) as United went toe to toe with Kaiser Chiefs for the fifth time.
The games between the teams had always been well contested and close run affairs, but that was not to be the case in the “Vodacom Challenge” final. Goals from Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney, Tom Cleverley (making his debut with the first team) and Frazier Campbell secured an emphatic victory for United in Pretoria.
Tonight marks the first time in four years United have travelled to South Africa; with new signing Shinji Kagawa set to make his first team bow. Many will dismiss the friendlies as meaningless but they do at least give overseas supporters an opportunity to see their heroes – as illustrated by the once in a lifetime opportunity some South African Supporters’ Association members got yesterday to meet the players. And if the workout is as tough as it has proved to be in years gone by, it could turn out to be a productive trip all round.