The 34-year-old England international has recently gone back to the LA Galaxy after a loan stint at AC Milan, but his reception has been far from warm in America after the player himself hinted at wanting to stay in Italy.
Beckham was able to force his way back into England reckoning during his time in Europe, and the former Real Madrid man realises his final chance at World Cup glory probably lies away from Hollywood.
Chelsea, Tottenham and Fulham are believed to be lining up loan deals in a bid to entice Beckham back to the Premier League, but the 34-year-old has his heart set on a return to Manchester United.
"I'd love to go back to United because they are the team I support," Beckham told Zoo magazine.
"For me, they are the best fans in the world. They're the best club I've played for, but I'm 34 years old now - I'm getting a little bit older."
"Manchester United is always a team that any professional would want to play for."
David Gill has questioned the commercial strategy behind Real Madrid's mammoth summer spending spree.
Aside from finding Sir Alex Ferguson's successor when the most successful manager in Manchester United's history eventually decides to call it a day, Gill would probably concede wage inflation is the biggest problem he is likely to face as chief executive of the Old Trafford outfit.
No-one is mentioning the £700million debt piled up by the Glazer family as they completed their buy-out of the club four years ago, and Ferguson has never complained at the backing he has received from United's American backers.
Yet, just as Liverpool and Arsenal are trying to wrestle with major financial issues in addition to putting a winning team on the pitch, so must United.
Gill could therefore have done without the incredible sums spent by Madrid and Manchester City that threaten to take wages spiralling out of control.
With City, the motive is fairly obvious. Mega-rich owners wanting to make a big impact. At the Bernabeu, Gill senses a flaw.
"I don't understand the economics of what Real Madrid are doing," Gill told Press Association Sport.
"Their turnover is not materially different to ours so I am not quite sure how they can make the profits to justify the salaries.
"It's none of my business I suppose but I don't think they can."
No such analysis is needed for what has happened at Eastlands over the past 12 months.
While Real Madrid president Florentino Perez appears to think anticipated additional commercial revenue from the arrivals of Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and Karim Benzema will cover the enormous cost of buying the players, City have no need to balance the books.
As long as they are being bankrolled by their Abu Dhabi-based backers, Mark Hughes' mega spending spree, which has delivered former Red Devil Carlos Tevez among others, can continue.
"There were clearly issues with Carlos," said Gill.
"Whether he couldn't grasp what being a member of a squad was I don't know.
"Was there a genuine desire on their part to conclude the deal? You would have to ask them.
"But he has clearly gone for more money than we were paying him and economically they possibly felt it was better for him to move on."
That kind of deal does contribute to a much-changed fiscal landscape though, where top players are suddenly measuring their salaries at £200,000-a-week.
Few in football are happy with this, except players lucky enough to benefit of course, and Gill cannot see an easy solution.
"You could not have a salary cap," he said.
"It wouldn't just have to be Europe-wide, it would have to be world-wide. It is just not feasible.
"We will continue to compete because we have to try and attract the right players to Manchester United.
"We are one of the wealthiest clubs but we have always had a sensible benchmark of spending 50% of our revenue on wages.
"If you get that balance right you are moving along properly.
"Not everyone wants to come. Not everyone loves Manchester United.
"But if we continue to grow our revenue, that will deliver more profitable income, which we can then put into the players. Then we can continue to attract and retain the best players in the world.
"We should not undersell our key assets. We have the history and heritage of Manchester United and 76,000 people in the stadium every week.
"I still think we are a major attraction."
Phil Chisnall believes that Manchester United’s move to acquire Michael Owen will pay huge dividends for the BPL Champions.
Chisnall, who moved from Man United to Liverpool in 1964, said that the striker's transfer to Old Trafford was fantastic news.
"It's a brilliant piece of business," Chisnall told United's official website.
"Michael's had his injury problems, but he didn't become a bad player during his time at St James' Park. If you'd put George Best into that Newcastle team he'd have struggled!"
"When United are playing well, and the passing movements are flowing, they create countless chances, and he'll poke in a high percentage of them. "
"He won't be bombing about all over the place as Carlos Tevez did, but he'll wait for his opportunities and he'll score hatfuls."
Chisnall is confident that Owen can reclaim his prolific Liverpool strike-rate while donning the shirt of the Red Devils.
"United have found themselves a thoroughbred striker without paying a transfer fee and Michael Owen has got himself back in the top bracket."
"It's a perfect scenario for both parties."
Gary Neville will miss the next 10 days of Manchester United's Asian tour after picking up an injury during training.
Neville has flown back to England for treatment and has been ruled out of the remainder of United's Far East tour, the Audi Cup in Munich next week, when United will place two games, the first against Boca Juniors on Wednesday and, in all probability, the Old Trafford friendly with Valencia on August 5.
"Gary Neville tweaked his groin yesterday in training," said Sir Alex Ferguson following his side's 3-2 win over FC Seoul.
"He will probably be ready in about 10 days.
"It would have been silly to keep him here if he was not going to play so we sent him home this morning."
Given the muscular injuries that sidelined Neville for the best part of two seasons, it is a worrying development for the 34-year-old, although there is no suggestion at this stage that his career is under threat.
At least Ferguson has plenty of options at right-back, with Rafael Da Silva, Wes Brown and John O'Shea all capable of fulfilling the role.
It is up front where Ferguson is deriving most pleasure from the pre-season campaign though.
Wayne Rooney and Federico Macheda were both on target for the second time in pre-season, with Dimitar Berbatov breaking his duck by nodding home the winner midway through the second half.
For Macheda in particular, an impressive Far East tour is a major bonus, as it will give his manager faith that, in the 17-year-old, he has someone capable of being fourth striker to Rooney, Berbatov and Michael Owen.
"Federico's goal was excellent," enthused Ferguson.
"His movement was very good and he always seems to do well when he gets on the shoulder of defenders.
"It is really pleasing to see your strikers scoring.
"Obviously the main ones are going to be Owen, Rooney and Berbatov and I am very comfortable with that.
"But if Federico continues to progress, it will be a big advantage to us because it would give us an extra player from the word go."
The other star of the show was Park Ji-sung, who was sent on for the final 17 minutes despite being well short of match practice after an extended summer break.
Park received huge cheers every time his face was shown on the big screens at either end of the stadium and the ovation he was given when he came on was similar to those David Beckham tends to receive.
His reward for four years' hard graft will be a new United contract, which Ferguson feels is fully deserved.
"His performance level in the last few years has been outstanding," said Ferguson.
"His contract is coming to an end so giving him a new one is an appropriate step to ensure he stays with us for the next few years.
"He is a really top player and we want him to remain at Old Trafford.
"He is nowhere near the level of fitness we require just yet but in view of the fact this match was in his home country, I thought it was the right thing to do to give him some of the match."
Mobile ESPN’s Shreyas Sharma ponders whether Michael Owen will be able to fill the gap left by Cristiano Ronaldo
So, he's gone, leaving a gaping hole at the wings and in the goal-scoring charts. He got what he wanted, a move to Real Madrid, and got the Glazers 80 million Pounds in return. Goodbye Cristiano Ronaldo!
Time, then, to welcome Manchester United's biggest, and so far, only signing of the summer so far - Michael James Owen.
But the question that must be on the lips of every Red Devils fan is - can Owen actually bring the record-breaking league title No. 19 to Old Trafford? Can he be a worthy successor to the illustrious Number Sevens in Man U colours - the likes of Best, Cantona, Beckham and C-Ron?
It isn't as though Owen can fit straight into Ronaldo's slot. The Portuguese star could be a midfielder, a left or right-winger and a striker all rolled into one. Owen, on the other hand, is a pure striker who, despite his gift for finishing, has never been one to create too many opportunities for himself or his partners. Plus, age and medical history are also not on Owen's side.
So, have United made a bad move? Especially when a striker in question happens to have scored 204 goals in 418 club appearances in England and Spain. Especially when, despite his reputation for being injury prone, he has played 31 league games in each of the last two seasons. And especially when your manager happens to be a wily fox, named Alex Ferguson.
Fergie has been known to pull rabbits out of hats with his formations. One look at the squad, as it stands, will reveal that the Scot will go for a normal 4-4-2, starting (from right to left) Anderson, Michael Carrick, Park Ji-Sung and Nani in the midfield and Rooney and Berbatov/Macheda up front. The old legs - Giggs, Scholes and Owen, will be given short bursts on the whole, and maybe held back for pressure situations.
If Rooney and Berbatov start, they will either play side-by-side or with Berbatov staying back, to let Rooney pressure the defence with his pace. Anderson and Nani will form a pacey wing-duo, with the work-ethic of Park coming in handy in a weakened midfield. If Fergie does go-for-broke with Macheda, though, one might see Rooney hanging back and playing provider.
Ferguson himself has indicated, Owen is more likely to have a bench-role. In the last four seasons, all for Newcastle, Owen has scored 7, 0, 13 and 10 goals. Even the most optimistic United fan will not expect more than 15 goals from the Chester-born man. Off the bench, his role might be reduced to the region of 7-10 goals.
But even though the deck looks heavily stacked against him, one would be ill-advised to write-off Owen. After all, he has got off to a great start, playing in both pre-season games against Malaysia XI and scoring the winning goal on each occasion.
Owen has a lot more on his side - arguably the best medical staff in the country, a street-smart manager who can rotate his players to extract the maximum out of them, and that one quality that a four-year stint without top-flight football can give to champion players.
Fire in the belly.
The pair are good friends back in Manchester, where Park is generally seen as a quiet man, who shies away from publicity.
However, back in his native land, he cannot avoid it.
When his face was beamed onto giant screens at each end of the pitch during Manchester United's 3-2 win over FC Seoul last night, a capacity 60,000 crowd went mad.
When he made his entrance 17 minutes from time, the noise was something more like what The Beatles encountered in their heyday.
"People in Manchester think Ji is a very quiet person - when he first arrived he never talked and people didn't know much about him," said Evra.
"But when we arrive in Seoul it is like he is the King of Korea.
"They shake, they cry, they scream when they see him. It is amazing.
"He is like the David Beckham of Korea.
"I am very happy for him because he is a really good friend and on the pitch he always gives 100 per cent for the team. That is why people love him."
Park couldn't crown his return with a goal last night but efforts from Wayne Rooney, Federico Macheda and Dimitar Berbatov ensured United recorded a 3-2 success in what will be the hardest match they face on a four-match tour that concludes in China tomorrow against Hangzhou Greentown.
Gary Neville will not be there though after the Red Devils' skipper flew home yesterday with a groin injury.
Neville has already been ruled out of the Audi Cup in Munich next week, when United will play two games - the first against Boca Juniors on Wednesday.
In all probability, he will also miss the Old Trafford friendly with Valencia on August 5.
And, while he should be available for the Community Shield encounter with Chelsea at Wembley four days' later, already it would appear the 34-year-old is slipping down the pecking order of potential right-backs given the list also includes Wes Brown, John O'Shea and Rafael Da Silva.
"Gary Neville tweaked his groin yesterday in training," said Ferguson.
"He will probably be ready in about 10 days.
"It would have been silly to keep him here if he was not going to play so we sent him home this morning."
Sir Alex Ferguson may have described Macheda as the deadliest marksman at Old Trafford earlier this week.
However, the teenage Italian knows he has plenty to do if he is to justify the faith Ferguson has shown in him by handing Macheda the coveted fourth striking role, rather than pay the kind of inflated fees being demanded by clubs across Europe for their star names this summer.
He has already made a decent start, scoring the opening goal on his first pre-season game on Monday as United recorded a two-goal triumph against a Malaysian XI.
Given they represent the strongest opposition they will face on their four-match tour of the Far East, it is unlikely Macheda will retain his place for Friday's encounter with FC Seoul.
More likely, the youngster will be unleashed against Hangzhou Greentown on Sunday ahead of a return to Europe to play in the Munich-based Audi Cup towards the end of next week.
If so, Macheda could find himself paired with Owen again, just as he was at the Bukit Jalil Stadium.
And that will suit him just fine. For, being so eager to learn, Macheda knows there is no-one better than the fourth highest goalscorer in England international history.
"It is very important for me to learn from Michael because he is one of the best strikers in the world," said Macheda.
"If I work with him and learn, I can get better every day."
Macheda owes his opportunity to an outstanding month last term.
In addition to his memorable last-gasp curling effort to beat Aston Villa and the winner against Sunderland the following week, both of which proved crucial in United completing a hat-trick of title triumphs, Macheda also started the FA Cup semi-final against Everton, when a youthful Red Devils line-up were unlucky to lose on penalties.
Impacts like that make a lasting impression on Ferguson, who is so overwhelmed by Macheda's physical presence he jokingly suggested United should check his birth certificate.
Now Macheda is out to justify his billing, knowing he owes the Scot a big favour given there were plenty of more experienced - if more expensive - alternatives.
"I have to thank Sir Alex because without him I wouldn't have the chance to play in the first team," said Macheda.
"I know I have to work hard and make sure he gives me more chances."
Meanwhile, Lyon have dismissed Ferguson's claim that United were willing to pay £32million to sign Karim Benzema.
The United boss was keen to use some of the world record £80million fee received from Real Madrid for Cristiano Ronaldo to bring Benzema to Old Trafford.
However, Ferguson revealed he pulled out of the running when the fee went over £32million because he didn't feel it represented good value.
Real eventually signed the 21-year-old, with Lyon now claiming the up front payment from the Spanish giants is only £30million.
"Lyon deny categorically the information published today in daily newspaper L'Equipe, which said Manchester United made an offer of 40million Euros for the transfer of Karim Benzema," said a statement released by the now deposed French champions.
"The maximum offer from the Manchester club was 35million Euros, which included eventual bonuses, and the director general of Manchester United, David Gill, had clearly stated that his club would not go above this amount.
"Lyon point out that it finally accepted the transfer of Karim Benzema to Real Madrid, which was the absolute preference of the player, for a net minimum amount of 35million Euros, which could reach a maximum of 41million Euros dependent on sporting performance."
Although Foster did go on tour to South Africa three years ago before his second stint at Watford, this is his first experience on tour with Man United in Asia.
Fans are camped outside the team hotel 24 hours a day. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was once pounced on by an autograph hunter when he merely put his head out of his room door on a similar tour a few years back.
And United's arrival in Seoul was even more frenzied given Park Ji-sung has joined up with his team-mates after an extended summer break.
"It is absolutely mad," admitted Foster.
"I missed the trip a couple of years ago but the lads came back and told me all about it. They camp outside the hotel, even when we go to training there are loads of people there. There are hundreds and the noise is unbelievable.
"We get mobbed at airports.
"It just shows you what a massive global brand Manchester United is.
"The other night we were playing the Malaysian national team in Malaysia yet the fans were cheering when we scored. You don't get that anywhere else."
Full-time: FC Seoul 2-3 Man United
90 min - Scholes gets it right in the penalty box but whacks it onto the cross bar.
88 min - Substitution for FC Seoul: Woo Yeoh for Kyuong Jun
Both teams poke and probe to add to their goal tally.
82 min - Nani takes a free kick that goes high and wide.
79 min - Owen is brought down for a free kick for Man United.
75 min - Substitution for Man United: Park for Carrick
75 min - Substitution for Man United: Da Silva for Evra
The stadium erupts in cheers at the sight of Park Ji-sung warming up at the sideline.
66 min - GOAL!!!! Berbatov scores from a beautiful cross from Gibson.
60 min - Substitution for Man United: Berbatov for Macheda
60 min - Substitution for Man United: Nani for Anderson
60 min - Substitution for Man United: Owen for Rooney
60 min - Substitution for Man United: Scholes for Giggs
47 min - GOAL!!!! Rooney lofts it up from their own half for Macheda to collect and round past the keeper. Its 2 goals each.
46 min - Substitution for Man United: Gibson for Fletcher
46 min - Substitution for Man United: Van de Sar for Kusczcak
45 min - GOAL!!!! Dejan makes it two.
32 min - GOAL!!!! Rooney heads it in from a cross from O'Shea. It's 1 goal all
27 mins Macheda gets a shot in but its saved by the keeper
24 min - GOAL!!! Dejan stretches to nudge it in from a brilliant cross. FC Seoul are up 1-0
22 min - Evra clears the ball for Man U
17 min - Dejan takes a low shot, Kusczcak was able to stretch to it
Looks to be a cracker of a game, with both teams going back and forth
11 min - Rooney takes a crack but goes far and wide
9 min - Myong-jin shoots from outside the box but Kusczcak is there
8 min - A corner for FC Seoul, Kim ji's header is tipped over
7 min - O'Shea swings one in the penalty area but only FC Seoul players are there
3 min - Giggs misses a volley from a sweet pass from Macheda
2 min - FC Seoul is confident in playing the ball around
The crowd at he World Cup Stadium roars into life when bith clubs' flags come out.
Giggs takes the captain's armband, as Neville returns to England due to an injury.
Owen was a surprise capture for a club reeling at the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez from their title-winning squad.
At first, most United fans were seriously underwhelmed by the signing. However, with two goals in three games on the Red Devils' Far East tour so far, Owen has hit the ground running and looks fitter and fresher than at any stage during four seasons at Newcastle.
Ferguson, though, does intend paying some heed to Owen's past fitness record.
The Scot nevertheless expects Owen to figure in 25 games this term. And providing he reaches that figure, Ferguson sees no reason why his new forward should fail to hit the 15-goal mark.
"Michael has scored two already and I hope there are plenty more to come," said the Red Devils chief.
"If you look at his record over the years, even the last two years at Newcastle when they were going through a difficult time, he scored one in every two games.
"He is easily capable of reaching that level again.
"If he plays 25 games for me this season I think we'll get 15 goals."
Ferguson was speaking ahead of tomorrow's encounter with Hangzhou Greentown at the Dragon Stadium, which will conclude another successful trip to Asia that once again highlights how popular United are in this part of the world.
The reaction in South Korea to Park Ji-sung's arrival was astounding, while United arrived in China to instantly find their team hotel mobbed by supporters today, with high pitched screaming coming every time one of the players ventured into public view.
Little wonder Ferguson is not ruling out the possibility of signing another Chinese player, despite the purchase of Dong Fangzhou now being regarded as a failure.
"United are always searching for talent throughout the world," said Ferguson.
"Of course we had Dong for a couple of years.
"He is a good boy, a good professional and he did his very best but unfortunately it didn't work out for him.
"However if we see potential we will bring them to United. Our search always goes on."
Rio Ferdinand has backed Wayne Rooney to emerge from the giant shadow cast by Cristiano Ronaldo's exploits and become Manchester United's star player.
Ronaldo's 67-goal heroics over two seasons forced Rooney to play a supporting role to the man who took star billing at United until his £80million move to Real Madrid this summer.
But defender Ferdinand claimed Ronaldo's move could prove the making of Rooney and see the 23-year-old fulfil his potential as one of the finest strikers in world football. "One thing I'm sure of is that Ronaldo going will bring the best out in our players," said Ferdinand.
"We know he scored a lot of goals in the last two seasons for us, but we've got players like Wayne who we know are capable of doing that.
"Other people are going to have to take responsibility because there are goals that have gone out of our team that need to be made up. Wayne is such a team player and gives himself to the team that he loses that selfishness other forwards have got.
"But would I want Wayne to score 25 or 30 goals this season and us not win a trophy? I don't think so.
"Wayne offers more as a team player and that's important. He's an instinctive player and if you have 10 or 11 robots you won't be successful."
Although Rooney managed 20 goals last season, he did so playing out of position for much of the campaign, deployed wide to accommodate Ronaldo's unique threat through the middle.
This season, however, United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has vowed to restore Rooney to his favoured role as an orthodox striker, where he is at his most dangerous.
"We haven't spoken about it but I'm sure that's where I'll play," said Rooney. "Everyone knows it's my best position.
"I enjoy it more than being out on the flanks. It's less work, you get more chances to score and as a forward that's what you want."
Ferdinand admitted he was stunned at Fergie's capture of Michael Owen for free, but claimed the United boss may have pulled off another masterstroke by signing the 29-year-old.
"Initially I was surprised we signed Michael," said Rio. "But I looked at his stats and he played a lot more games than I thought in the last two seasons.
"In my head I was thinking about it like a fan and weighing it up, but after seeing him in training and in two games I'm very confident we've signed the right type of player.
"You can understand why the manager has put faith in him. He's a great goalscorer and he just needs the ball delivered into dangerous areas."
Despite Ronaldo's departure and the loss of his commanding on-field presence, Ferdinand insisted United still have enough quality to remain the Premier League's dominant force.
No team has ever won the title four times in a row and Ferdinand said the formidable squad of players Ferguson has assembled gives United the edge over their rivals.
"That longevity and time we've had together as a squad to learn each other's games and personalities is a big weapon, and one we have to use," he said.
"We've got a great mentality at the club, winning three titles on the bounce. That says it all, in that as people and players we have the mentality of winners, we want to win all the time.
"I'd probably say we'll be a lot more compact as a team now with Cristiano gone.
"His talent allowed him to be left further up the field than some other players in that position because you knew what you'd get out of him when the ball got to him.
"So I'd say we'll be more compact in midfield and harder to break down, but we have to keep that same potency up front."
Ferdinand admitted much more will be expected of United's emerging young players next season, the likes of Anderson, Nani, Danny Welbeck, Darron Gibson and Federico Macheda.
Anderson has yet to score in 74 appearances for United, while Nani featured in only 13 Premier League games last season, with the jury still out on both. Welbeck has been tipped by Fergie to gatecrash England's World Cup squad next summer, while Gibson and Macheda will play bigger roles when the new campaign starts.
"Those younger players are getting better every year," said Ferdinand. "We've seen glimpses of the talent they've got.
"But it's about showing that whenever they're given the chance by the manager. I'm sure that's what they'll be aiming for and what the manager will be demanding.
"That's the encouraging thing - I know there's so much more to come from our younger players like Anderson, Nani, Macheda, Welbeck, Gibson and Jonny Evans.
"There is much more to come from each of those players in the next couple of years or so...they'll be like new signings."
It has been a frantic summer for Rio Ferdinand. There was a stag do in Tel Aviv, in which – for a dare apparently – he was photographed in the kind of stretched T-shirt and skimpy shorts that would not have looked out of place alongside Sacha Baron Cohen's Bruno. Then there was a private jet to the Caribbean to marry his long-time girlfriend, Rebecca Ellison, and at the start of the month an interview with Roger Federer for his online magazine #5.
Now, Ferdinand is sitting in the dining room of one of Seoul's many grand but anonymous hotels contemplating the long months ahead during United's pre-season tour. He couldn't begin to tell you what the South Korean capital is like. There is a Hermès store in the hotel complex and Louis Vuitton is coming soon but that is as far as most footballers will get. "All I have seen is the hotel, the bus and the pitch," he says.
The defender also admitted he did a lot of thinking during the summer, pondering the departures of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez from Old Trafford. Wondering too in the aftermath of United's non-performance in the European Cup final, whether it had actually been a good season and asking himself what the club was doing signing Michael Owen.
"At first I thought it was a bad season, that was my first reaction," he said. "But as time goes on and the days and the weeks pass, you judge it with a clearer head. We won three trophies and reached a second-successive Champions League final. But when you are travelling around in the summer you are never too far from a news stand and I would normally buy a sports magazine but this time I didn't. I was to-ing and fro-ing in my mind if I should have done this or that but it is time to put it to bed. It is over now, it's time to look forward to a new season."
That though will be a season without Ronaldo and Tevez. "I am a great badgerer of the coaching staff," Ferdinand said. "I always want to know what's going on. Everyone was signing players and I was thinking to myself: 'Well, what are we doing?' But, then again, if we have to go into a season with the same nucleus of players, I wouldn't have been bothered. What reassures me is that there is so much more to come from our younger players – the Machedas, the Welbecks, the Evanses.
"We shouldn't be bitter towards Ronnie. If you think that a career lasts 10-12 years, he gave six of them to Manchester United. Half of his career to one club after coming from Portugal. You couldn't cast a shadow over his dream to play for Real Madrid. Playing for Manchester United is the holy grail for some people, and some people won't understand him but he is a great lad and will always have an affinity with the players here. In time people will see that."
Tevez, of course, has moved across Manchester, one of the players on which Mark Hughes has lavished millions of the riches available thanks to the club's owners. The audacious attempt to lure the England captain John Terry from Chelsea, though, looks to have failed and Ferdinand believes players have to think hard about why they are switching clubs.
"JT is his own man, he will make his own decisions, everyone makes their own decisions in life. If I were leaving Manchester United, I wouldn't go to a team I felt wasn't capable of winning trophies or finishing in the top three. Whether that is Manchester City I don't know. The more I think about it, abroad is the only place I can see myself going. I wouldn't want to be playing against Manchester United every week. I would rather go away. But sitting here I can't see myself leaving."
It was in the far east in 2002 that Ferdinand first showed himself to be a defender touched by greatness and, had England done things differently, they would have capitalised on Owen's goal in the quarter-final with Brazil and maybe won the World Cup. Seven years later, Ferdinand and Owen are together again.
"Initially I was surprised when he signed. But I was thinking like a fan. If you look at his stats, he has played a lot more games than I thought but after seeing him close up I am very confident we have signed the right type of player. You can understand why the manager has put faith in him. He needs the ball delivered into dangerous areas and other people – the forwards and midfielders – are going to have to take responsibility for that because goals have gone out of our team and they need to be made up. One thing I'm sure of is that Ronaldo's going will bring the best out in our players. We know he scored a lot of goals in the last two seasons for us, especially against the lower teams in the league. He'd get a couple of goals a game against them on a regular basis. But we've got players who we know are capable of doing that and now, whoever's on the pitch, I'm sure they can go out there, do that job and fill the gap."
Nobody in Sir Alex Ferguson's squad would feel that as keenly as Wayne Rooney. When he arrived from Everton five summers ago and announced himself with a hat-trick against Fenerbahce on his debut for Manchester United, there seemed no doubt he would be Old Trafford's most glittering star, a mantle that, in the end, fell to Ronaldo. By no means has Rooney failed or underachieved at United, but centre stage is now his.
"He is such a team player and gives himself so completely to the team that he loses the selfishness other forwards have," Ferdinand said. "I think Wayne's an instinctive player and you need them. If you have 11 robots on the pitch, then you are not going to be a successful or entertaining team. Free-flowing is the way United have always played."
Ferguson has remarked that with Ronaldo and Tevez gone much will depend on Manchester United's defence, which, led by Ferdinand and with Edwin van der Sar, Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic, is probably the most formidable rearguard in the world. This time last season, it was a defence that Jonny Evans, the fiercely talented Belfast boy wondered if he could break into. Roy Keane and Sunderland were offering him guaranteed first-team football but Ferdinand gave him the same advice as he would Terry. In the world of the Premier League, where everyone is a millionaire, medals are the only currency that matters.
"I spoke to him in pre-season last year in South Africa. He asked me about it. He was at a stage where he wanted to play every week. He had that the season before on loan at Sunderland and he didn't want to come back and play reserve-team football again.
"But it's the same argument for any young player. Do you want to go and play for a team in mid-table or do you want to be in a squad where you're going to get chances to play in a title-winning team or European Cup-winning team? When you look at it like that, it's a bit of a no-brainer."
UEFA functions like all bureaucracies. It continues actions without a hint of rational analysis, solely because it was policy beforehand. Has no one questioned the purpose of these penalties?
The sums under discussion are trivial. Both Manchester United and Arsenal measure turnover in the hundreds of millions. Five thousand pounds neither attracts attention nor deters future behavior. It is doubtful Arsenal will now institute a plastic bottle task force.
It does not stop supporters. If you throw a projectile into the pitch, it is assumed you will be banned. The thought of the club paying a paltry fine in addition does not factor into the decision.
The fines are also not cost effective. There must be a meeting to determine whether a meeting to discuss these incidents is required. Someone has to schedule, to organize and to provide amenities for that meeting, which, with UEFA, is probably a lavish lunch. They may even fly people in for it. Someone has to contact the clubs to make statements. Once the issue is deemed punishment-worthy, another meeting must take place. The process takes months. The sum cost exceeds the amount returned in fines.
UEFA penalizing Arsenal and Manchester United accomplishes only one thing. It re-publicizes unsavory events long-forgotten and ultimately insignificant.
Rationales are non-existent. The fines are useless. UEFA should give meaningful punishments, or none at all.
SEOUL (Reuters) - Manchester United fought back twice to beat FC Seoul 3-2 in the South Korean capital on Friday, Dimitar Berbatov scoring the winner to maintain United's unbeaten record on their pre-season tour of Asia.
The Premier League champions, welcomed to a cauldron of noise with 65,000 packed into Seoul World Cup stadium, fell behind to a 23rd-minute goal from Montenegrin striker Dejan Damjanovic.
Wayne Rooney equalised just after the half-hour mark as United began to get a grip on the game but the South Koreans were back infront before the break after Damjanovic netted his second past goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak.
Italian striker Federico Macheda brought United level early in the second half before the visitors introduced Berbatov, Michael Owen and Paul Scholes.
The changes paid dividends as United's pace stretched tired Seoul legs and languid Bulgarian striker Berbatov nodded home to seal the win.
Alex Ferguson introduced hometown hero Park Ji-sung with a quarter of an hour left to play, taking the noise in the stadium to new levels. The energetic midfielder brought the crowd to its feet with every touch but was unable to give the fans the goal they craved.
Ferguson paid tribute to FC Seoul's improvement over the past couple of years. A Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired United had cruised to a 4-0 win over the same opposition two years ago.
"I think in general they're a better team now," said Ferguson. "Damjanovic did very very well. Very good performance tonight.
"It was a very good game, very entertaining. It was the best FC Seoul gave so far. Good pace, good tempo, good intensity."
The Scot added that he had held Park on the bench until late in the second half because his fitness was not at its peak but confirmed he was keen to keep the South Korean captain at the club.
"What happens during the tour doesn't affect what happens on Park's contract," said Ferguson. "We're taking appropriate steps to make sure he's with us for the next couple of years."
Park's team mates were stunned by the reception he received, the crowd going wild when his face appeared on giant scoreboards as he sat on the bench waiting to come on.
"They asked me if I'm the King of Korea," Park said.
Instead he broached the idea of “a week or 10-day break in the fixture program” so that teams could play prestigious friendlies worldwide.
Speaking in South Korea ahead of Manchester United’s friendly against FC Seoul today, Gill said it was “highly unlikely” that the 39th game plans would be revisited.
The idea to play a 39th league game outside England was last year floated by EPL Chief Executive Richard Scudamore. But it met derision in England and a lukewarm response overseas.
The 39th game was seen as consummation of the EPL’s warming relationship with Asia. But Gill’s comments seem to indicate that his club can conquer the continent without it.
Indeed United – and other clubs - may already have done so.
United and Liverpool crack the Asian market
David Gill’s comments come midway through United’s 10-day Asian tour, where they have met ecstatic scenes.
Fans have maintained a 24-hour vigil outside the team hotel since United arrived in Seoul on Wednesday night. In Kuala Lumpur the team was confined to its hotel which was besieged by “more than 1000” supporters. Similar scenes would have been expected in Jakarta had United not been forced to cancel their visit following last Friday's suicide bombings. There will be more of the same when they visit China this weekend.
July is the short window in the annual football calendar in which Asia’s soccer-mad fans get their fix of live English matches. As well as United, six other EPL teams will have visited the continent before the season kicks off on August 15.
Such scenes as have greeted United and Liverpool, who played Thailand on Wednesday, cast doubt on whether the proposed 39th game is necessary.
Clubs are cagey when pressed on how much they net individually from Asia, but collectively the figures are vast. Asian broadcasters pay the majority of the £625 million ($1.03 billion) foreign rights fees for the EPL. The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) reckons 61 per cent of all football revenue generated across the continent ends up in the hands of the EPL. United will earn an estimated £10 ($16.4) million in match fees from their ten day Asia excursion alone.
But the days when EPL clubs saw Asia merely as an untapped market to sell replica shirts are over. Instead, the pre-season trips are part of a wider charm offensive.
Harbir Gill, Director of Sportscast, a Kuala Lumpur-based media and events company which last week helped launch United’s new Nike kit, says that clubs have come to see Asia as part of a broader commercial strategy.
“For the big clubs it’s building on the relationships that they already have,” he told World Football Insider.
“The clubs realize that there is money out here, but it might not be about building a fan base any more.”
Counterfeiting, inherent in many Asian economies, limits ambitions to sell millions worth of merchandise: fans won’t pay $100 for an official shirt, when they can get a fake for a tenth of that price. Even in affluent Kuala Lumpur, where United last week officially launched its new kit, sales of the new shirt numbered just several thousand.
There are notable exceptions to this rule – the image of Manchester United midfielder Park Ji-Sung appears on 1.2 million credit cards in his native South Korea, earning United an estimated £12 ($19.7) million – but clubs have adopted a more sophisticated approach.
“Clubs might sell a-boards, or shirt sponsorship (Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Fulham and Portsmouth all have Asian sponsors) or hospitality,” says Gill. “United have a Japanese tire company (Kumho) as one of their sponsors – and I don’t think you can even buy those tires outside Japan.’
In January 2008 United played a seemingly pointless testimonial friendly in Riyadh. Seven months later Saudi Telecom announced a 5 year contract to market united in the country worth £9.3 ($15.3) million. “That’s the kind of the commercial set up clubs are developing now,” says Gill.
Gill’s Sportscast company have themselves seen the commercial potential of the EPL, purchasing the radio broadcast rights for next season and will start transmitting next month. He says that the market for the top clubs – principally United and Liverpool – is insatiable.
“United’s match in KL was sold out,” he
The rapturous welcome received by United and Liverpool is in stark contrast to that likely to be encountered by Tottenham, West Ham and Hull in China. Next week they compete in the Barclay’s Asia Trophy in Beijing’s Worker’s Stadium. But only around a quarter of tickets have so far sold. Supporters, it seems, will only pay to see the teams they care about.
China is a notoriously difficult market to crack, and numerous English clubs have been burned trying to do so.
Everton were forerunners there, in 2002 signing a sponsorship deal with communications giant, Keijan. As part of the deal they had Chinese international midfielder, Li Tie – the so-called “Chinese Beckham” – added to its roster.
Everton initially had grand ambitions to use the goodwill and publicity generated by Li Tie to “break” the Chinese market and raise huge revenues from merchandising and by selling online broadcast rights. But these soon floundered on Li Tie’s inability to cut it in the EPL and Chinese consumers unwillingness to buy expensive merchandise on the back of his presence.
A club insider, heavily involved in Everton’s China plans, said: “It’s a good idea, there’s lots of potential. But no one really knows where to start. Having Li Tie isn’t enough. The club really needs to be winning things to get fans. And even then it’s still just potential for now. Not many Chinese people have £50 ($82) for an Everton shirt.”
In 2004 Keijan cancelled its sponsorship and Everton’s dreams of conquering the east died, although they maintain a sporadically updated Mandarin website.
Since then clubs ranging from Manchester City and Sheffield United to Stockport County and even tiny Accrington Stanley, whose League Two attendances hover just above the 1,000 mark, have tried, without discernable success, to crack China.
Chinese consumers are “too discerning” to be taken in by this approach, says Aline Conus, CEO of Shanghai-based marketing and luxury goods company e-lbd.com She advises leading French clubs on setting up in China and says that being an established name in the west is not enough.
“The main difficulty for many European businesses when entering the Chinese market is they look at opportunities with a very European perspective,” she told World Football Insider. “Instead they should first try to understand the local business state of mind and second look at what opportunities there are from that perspective,”
Nor does winning trophies necessarily capture fans in the Asian market. Chelsea, EPL champions in 2005 and 2006, still only have “few fans” in Malaysia, says Harbir Gill.
“You could win the FA Cup like Tottenham did in the 1980s and get a following, but you couldn’t do that now,” he says. “I don’t think Portsmouth could have come out here after winning the FA Cup last year and people would start to follow them. It’s just not going to happen.”
The Ultimate Prize
But if the Asian market is so comprehensively sewn up by Liverpool and Manchester United that even Chelsea find it hard to compete, what do the likes of West Ham hope to gain from their Chinese tour?
While all the talk from the United camp has been about “important markets” and promoting the club brand, West Ham’s focus on China has been on the football.
"This pre-season, and the matches we will play in China, are going to be very important for us because it will allow us to prepare for the new season in the right way,” its manager Gianfranco Zola said. “The young players will gain more experience and it is going to help us to be stronger and improve on what we have achieved so far."
But the returns from a summer spent touring Asia may not always be immediately obvious.
One Asian football expert told World Football Insider that clubs in the market for a new owner “will put themselves in the shop window.”
“There are plenty of new billionaires around these parts that have more money than brains,” he joked.
Ultimately, however, the biggest prize may not be measured in pounds and dollars.
“Many of these countries EPL teams are visiting will have a say on where the next few World Cups will go,” says Harbir Gill.
“English teams playing in Asia builds on the fact that it is the best league in the World,” he says. “It promotes England’s World Cup bid in the best way that is possible.”
The Bulgarian international arrived at Old Trafford last summer when Sir Alex Ferguson finally landed him from Tottenham Hotspur, in a deal worth almost £31million.
Berbatov struggled to win over the United fans last term, but with Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez leaving this summer, this is something Robson believes the striker must do.
"It's time for him to step forward and show what he can really do,” he said.
"Berbatov is quality and this season we'll see him come into his own. With Ronaldo and Tevez gone, United will be looking for others to lead the way.
“And I'm sure he can become the main man."
Manchester United must build a long-term relationship with their estimated 71 million fans in China before any significant commercial goals can be achieved, according to commercial director Richard Arnold.
Like many western businesses, top European soccer clubs have flocked to China in the last 10 years, tempted by the opportunities presented by the 1.3 billion population, only to find a much more complicated market than they anticipated.
English champions United arrive in Hangzhou on Saturday to play the final match in their pre-season tour of Asia on Sunday, their fifth game in greater China over the last decade.
Arnold believes United, more than other English side, have particular appeal for the Chinese and the club simply cannot ignore such a huge portion of their estimated 330 million worldwide fanbase.
"I think the further away from the UK you get, the more pronounced is the difference between Manchester United and other teams," he told Reuters in an interview on a recent trip to Beijing.
"That's particularly the case in China, the long history of exciting football, the focus on youth, the culture and traditions that the club has are very appealing to China, which has a very similar approach.
"So there's a huge synergy between the two and that leads to a massive fanbase ... A huge proportion of the Manchester United family are here. It's a very important market to do well. It's one that isn't like other countries, it's very special."
China has presented singular problems to foreign clubs trying to generate income as they would in other markets.
Replica shirts, for example, are still far too expensive for a majority of Chinese fans with the proliferation of fakes offering a much cheaper alternative.
United have had setbacks.
Two "Red Cafe" restaurant-bars, a joint venture with Singapore's Manchester United Food & Beverage (Asia) Pte Ltd, opened in Chengdu in 2003 but have since closed down and there are now none in China.
Arnold was in Beijing for the launch of a five-year deal with Chinese company Aigo, who will make and distribute co-branded digital cameras, multimedia players and data storage devices for United globally, and mobile phone handsets in China.
Such partnerships were key to United's future success in China, Arnold said, and the length of the deal reflected the club's long-term thinking.
"My experience of business in China is that it needs a very long and strategic approach and consequently the progressive step and key and the first step is the right partner," he said.
"We think Aigo is the right partner, and we can reach out and touch fans and build a lasting bond with them. After that, who knows?"
Arnold bridles at the suggestion that the club's fans should be viewed simply as potential customers.
"The use of the word 'market' does a little bit of a disservice to the fans," he said. "
The important thing is to establish and build a relationship with the fans and until you've done that, to have any commercial goals at all is extremely ambitious."
One problem for English clubs in China since 2007 has been that it is very difficult for Chinese fans to watch them in action.
Rights to broadcast the English Premier League until 2010 were awarded to a small digital channel, while rival leagues like Italy's Serie A and the German Bundesliga are available on free-to-air channels.
"It's certainly an issue that we're acutely aware of, and indeed the Premier League is acutely aware of," Arnold said.
"Manchester United has been very supportive of the collective approach ... (and) we try and be as respectful as possible to the Premier League in that regard, but we would love it if we could reach as many fans as possible in China."
If it sounded like the admission of a battle lost, then David Gill's acknowledgement yesterday that Manchester United would not be competing with the salaries on offer at Manchester City was not meant to be one.
United's chief executive avoided the issue of whether the Premier League champions had the capability to match the dizzying figures on offer across town but the sobering truth for City is that they do not need to.
The figure waved under Samuel Eto's nose in June was £200,000 a week but he asked for more — effectively a £12.7 sign-on fee — then let it be known that he would still have signed for United for measurably less. When the £170,000 a week deal which took Emmanuel Adebayor to City was sealed, his people made inquiries as to United's interest.
Carlos Tevez only jumped ship because he couldn't face another year with the same Scottish manager. Such is the appeal of a side which has its place in football's pantheon, and doesn't just crave one.
City won't argue with that point. Mark Hughes has admitted several times in the past few weeks that values change when you're Manchester City.
Not only because the clubs selling to them drive the price up but because City are in a hurry and they can't afford Ferguson's luxury of buying the 18-year-old Da Silva twins (£3m) or even a 17-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo (£12.2m in 2003) and enjoy watching them developing on a relatively modest wage. It is what Gill was alluding to yesterday when he said stagflation wages like City's were not necessary when you are looking to “the medium and long term.” For United, the short term is sorted.
But the medium term is not. Estimates of how City will take to enter title contention differ greatly from player to player — Adebayor hopes a few years, Nigel de Jong suggested five in Durban this week — but there is no doubt that City will eventually come to the top table and offer stature as well as salaries.
That is when the essential difference in ownership will come to bear. United 's vast external debt — estimated at £666m — might be serviceable but interest payments of £43.3m a year don't lend themselves to paying John Terry monopoly money wages.
City's Abu Dhabi owners, meantime, are in this game for the long term and won't be going away. Their ambition is to build a brand which imbues the emiracy with honour and that fact is reflected in way they have been overhauling every aspect of City this summer — from the club's website to its training pitches and press facilities.
“With the sheer volume of our turnover, we can then attract the best players and retain our current players and pay them very good salaries,” Gill said yesterday. But will that still apply if the Ferguson succession proves difficult in a year or two? By which time Sheikh Mansour al Nahyan will have truly established a new kind of City salaries and the level of wage expectations from players has continued to rise as a result.
So while there is presently something vaguely vulgar in the arriviste City becoming the big spenders — deliverers, to be precise, of the largest annual wage bill for a first team squad in English football history, reaching £120m plus if they manage to sign John Terry (£200,000 a week) and Joleon Lescott (£120,000), surprisingly close to the £121m United laid out last season — it will not be considered as such in the future.
City's announcement yesterday of a friendly with Barcelona four games into the Premier League season underlines the elite side they already see themselves as — one which will have spent more than £619m on players this year if you throw in transfer fees. (Even with Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka, Real Madrid will spend about £500m on the same, between this summer and next.)
For a sense of the clubs and individuals who keep Ferguson awake at night, observe those for whom he reserves his venom. Rafael Benitez was last season's target, increasingly so as the season went on and Liverpool loomed over his shoulder like some plague. Expect serious vitriol from him for Manchester City in weeks to come.
Over seven thousand fans attended Manchester United's training session at Seoul World Cup Stadium on Thursday morning.
The session may have been open to the general public, but it was far from free.
For those with tickets to Friday evening’s exhibition match with K-League club FC Seoul, admission cost around €6.
Those without tickets had to pay around €9, which made watching Manchester United train for an hour more expensive than gaining admission to the average league match in South Korea.
According to the game’s organisers, Mast Entertainment, fans were charged in order to prevent too many attending.
“In 2007 [the last time the English champions visited Seoul] the people who attended were all connected to sponsors,” Mast spokesperson Liz Ha told Goal.com.
“This time we wanted to open it up to everybody. If it was free then we thought that there would be too many to control.”
Come this weekend, the mania will once again take hold of Chinese fans as the team arrives in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province on Saturday to play a match the next day against local team Hangzhou Greentown.
With an estimated worldwide fan base of 300 million and counting, including 192 million across Asia, the Red Devils have felt the fan's appreciation and passion during their first two legs of this year's Asian tour in Malaysia and South Korea.
After selling superstar Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid, Man U coach Sir Alex Ferguson has restricted his summer purchases to Michael Owen, on a free transfer, Wigan's Antonio Valencia and Bordeaux's Gabriel Obertan. Soccer critics have expressed concern that the team's popularity will wane from Ronaldo's departure.
But the throng of fans and media in Malaysia and South Korea indicates that the Red Devils boast a massive and loyal fan base in Asia.
The welcome mat for Man U is set to be as far-flung in China as it was in South Korea and Malaysia.
In addition to rooting for Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs and Dimitar Berbatov, many of the Chinese fans have gone crazy about Owen after he scored a sensational individual wonder-goal in England's 98 World Cup match against Argentina.
After a sensational start to his career for both Liverpool and England, Owen's form had been in doubt due to a succession of serious injuries in recent times.
But he has had impressive performances after finding the back of the net twice in a row in the first two Asian tour matches in Malaysia.
"Owen is getting old and his form has been sloppy due to injury before joining the United," said Liu Liang, a fan from Hangzhou. "But our love of him has never changed. We are so excited to see him in China and hope he will revive his career in United."
Another glaring inclusion might be South Korean star Park Ji-sung, who has missed the team's first two preseason matches in Malaysia due to injury but is set to return during United's third match against Park's home club FC Seoul today and the Asia tour's final match in Hangzhou.
Park is seen as the most successful Asian player in Europe and is always a fan favorite in Asia.
Players from the Hangzhou Greentown are also looking forward to going toe-to-toe with some of the world's best players.
"It's my honor to play with United. Some of them are my idols," said Ma Cheng, captain of Hangzhou. "I'm sure we can learn something that can not be learned from the domestic league.
"They have good defense in the midfield and are physically stronger than us. It's definitely a much more difficult match than we have played in the domestic league.
"But we can benefit a lot from competing with them," said Ma, who hopes to exchange shirts with his idol Rooney after the game.
Midfielder Zhang Ye will be the only Chinese player to play twice against United as a former Shenzhen player in 2007, when United kicked off their China Tour in Shenzhen, Guangdong province.
"I still remember that I was so nervous two years ago. It's totally different between watching them play on television and playing against them on the pitch. We are far lacking in strength, speed and technique.
"But I still feel lucky to have two chances to play against them. I think I can play much better than I did the last time."
With all of the Hangzhou players clamoring for some playing time on Sunday, head coach Zhou Sui'an is feeling the heat to accommodate all of them.
"Everyone is eager to play against United. I think I will put on as many as possible. Anyway, it's a rare and valuable experience."
Zhou shrugged off the chance to beat United, though he looks to play offensive soccer.
"The gap is apparent. I will not think of the result. But I will ask my men to play an offensive game in order to put on a wonderful match."
Ferguson has been relatively quiet in the transfer market since the end of the last season despite losing Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez.
The Scot paid 16 million pounds for Wigan's Antonio Valencia, three million pounds for Bordeaux starlet Gabriel Obertan and landed Michael Owen on a free transfer from Newcastle before insisting he wouldn't be making any more signings.
That angered some United fans, who claim United's owners, the Glazer family, have weakened the club's financial position by amassing huge debts when they bought the Premier League champions.
Glazer family spokesman Tehsin Nayani conceded that United have to fund interest payments of 43.3 million pounds a year to service the 750 million pounds loan used to buy the club.
But he insists their financial position remains healthy enough for Ferguson to spend big on players if he wants.
"We do have debt service and carry a significant amount of debt," Nayani told the Sun. "But our interest payments are around 43.3 million pounds a year while our operating profit was 80 million pounds topped by an extra 25 million pounds from transfer profits.
"So we are talking about a net amount of about 60 million pounds. That's cash that can be reinvested in the squad, doing up the toilets or new carpets.
"The point is there is money coming into United. One thing that is certain, because of globalisation and the growing middle classes in India and the Far East, the appeal of football is set to grow. We are part of that story."
United have been criticised over their failure to make a big signing while neighbours rivals Manchester City have been splashing the cash with a host of expensive new arrivals.
Yet Nayani claims Ferguson is selective regarding his transfer policy and that he will not pay over-the-odds or fund excessive salaries.
"The truth is a lot more prosaic than that," Nayani added. "The delay is because the manager has not been able to locate the players that he believes fit into the Manchester United mindset, ones that are motivated to play for United.
"You don't want mercenaries, to pay over the odds for players not willing to give their all for the club."
With 80 million pounds sterling from the proceeds of Cristiano Ronaldo, of which 18 million were wired to Wigan Athletic for Antonio Valencia who is supposed to fill the vacuum left by the Portuguese – to the best of his ability, anyway. And with more than 60 million in the pocket at disposal, Ferguson is apparently reluctant to spend, at least for now.
"We are not looking for mercenaries" was his blunt message, quoted by the Times of London. The point he is making is that players who will be coming to Old Trafford must be fully committed to the cause of the club and give it all they have, and not just use United as a transitional phase or a trampoline.
Perhaps this is the reason why there is no pressure from the supporters, nor the Glazer family for him to go and splash out the cash. In comparison to their next door neighbours, who have been throwing bundles of cash galore, for Carlos Tevez, Emmanuel Adebayor, Roque Santa Cruz and Gareth Barry. - in view of that promiscuous spending by both Real Madrid and City, United seem to be treading carefully, but smartly. Michael Owen walked in for free, and the youngsters Gabriel Obertan and Mame Biram Diouf were just shrapnel.
Is this another ingenious move by the Scotsman? He has vowed that City will not poise a serious title challenge this season, regardless of the cash spent – he is banking on the traditional threat from Anfield and the Bridge. But neither Liverpool nor Chelsea have so far done massive strides in reinforcing their squads. Chelsea are experiencing the wrong end of the stick for the first time themselves since the Russian revolution – they are beginning to learn what it is like to have someone outbid them for every player on the market. Liverpool meanwhile, who signed Glen Johnson, are currently fighting tooth and nail to keep some of they key players like Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano.
"The manager has a significant amount of money to invest if he wants to," said Tehsin Nayani, the spokesman for the Glazer family told the Guardian.
"The delay has been because the manager has not been able to locate the players he believes fit the Manchester Unitedmindset – players who are motivated to play for United. You don't want mercenaries and you don't want to pay over the odds for players not willing to give their all for the club."
To reinforce that notion, Ferguson was quoted as telling the Times of London.
"On a normal business level, United is in a very strong position and, so far, unaffected by the downturn.
And in a show of defiance, regarding the meteoric rise of City next door, Ferguson simply said: "All talk" And as far as signing Carlos Tevez for 25 million pounds sterling, the Scotsman added - "was Tevez worth £25.5m? Definitely not for Manchester United"
Manucho believes he improved as a player during his time at Manchester United despite his lack of first-team football.
The 26-year-old has switched to Spain this summer to join Real Valladolid after making just three substitute appearances since signing for the Red Devils in January 2008.
The Angola international was a surprise acquisition with the striker largely unknown in Europe and was subsequently loaned out to Panathinaikos and Hull City during his 18 months at Old Trafford.
Manucho netted just twice for the Tigers in 17 appearances last term but he is confident he can score goals in what he describes as the most technical league in the world.
"I am delighted to join Valladolid, it is not the big club like Manchester United but it is a very good club," he said.
Manchester United are ready to open talks with Ji-sung Park in a bid to extend the South Korean midfielder's contract at Old Trafford.
Park, set to face FC Seoul as United play the third game of their Far East tour on Friday, has met up with the squad in South Korea after being handed an extended summer break by manager Sir Alex Ferguson due to international duty during the summer.
The 28-year-old currently has just 12 months left on his current deal at United, despite emerging as a key player last season.
No deal has yet been struck to keep the former PSV Eindhoven player at United, but chief executive David Gill insists that moves are afoot to secure Park's long-term future.
Speaking in Seoul this morning, Gill said: "Those discussions will take place. We are looking to extend the contract, but there is no timing on it.
"Sir Alex (Ferguson) and his coaches very happy with him and we are looking to extend the deal, but there is no news at the moment.
"When there is something to announce, we will do so."
United enjoy huge popularity in South Korea and Gill admits that Park's presence only boosts their standing amongst the locals.
He said: "Ji was bought for football reasons obviously, but his presence has helped our commercial situation in the country without doubt.
"We have built a relationship with Kumho Tires, who are sponsoring the game, and Seoul Metropolitan Government and those commercial partners are very important to us."
When United last played in Seoul two years ago, Park was forced to miss the game due to a cruciate ligament injury.
But Ferguson admits that Park will play some part against his fellow countrymen tomorrow.
Ferguson said: "A decision will be taken on Friday about Ji-sung Park, but I'm sure he will be able to play some minutes.
"He hasn't been with us and done the same preparation as most of players, but he will be involved at some point and I'm sure that will give the supporters here a really big lift.
"He was injured and didn't play last time we were here, but I think he still won the man of the match award!
"When a local lad like JSP has left country to play and excel for Man U, at the very highest, the adulation he receives in own country is obvious.
"He has also been star of national team for few years. It is a football nation too, so when he comes back, the reaction is understandable."