Color me red.
My opinion of Manchester United shifted 180 degrees following this weekend’s activities.
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Like many soccer fans, I looked upon Man U as another bloated sports franchise that was too big for its own good. There is a reason they are compared with the Yankees and Cowboys. Those teams spend money with reckless abandon and that fuels their success.
But after watching the Manchester United players and coaches, all I can say is what a great bunch of chaps.
They were gracious and kind.
At Saturday’s news conference, manager Sir Alex Ferguson, goalie Edwin van der Sar and the Manchester United staff members were all giving of their time. No one seemed put out, even van der Sar who got cornered by the local TV stations when the news conference ended.
Then it was off to a brief training session that was hampered by rain. Ferguson and the players then sat down at tables and signed an endless number of autographs ((although fans paid for the right to meet the team). Fans had immediate access to their soccer heroes. It was quite a sight, and I couldn’t help but wonder if an NFL or NBA team would ever agree to do that.
Could you imagine Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and the rest of the Yankees sitting down for fans in Kansas City?
No way. And the Manchester United players are bigger stars than those guys!
Then came Sunday’s game, which was just an preseason exhibition for Man U. After the contest, Ferguson and some of the players (but not all) took the time to answer a stream of questions from the media. It should be noted that this doesn’t happen in England.
Ferguson will answer a few questions from Man U TV after a game, but the players get a pass. But they opened up for the Kansas City media.
One of Man U’s reasons for coming to Kansas City was to continue building its brand, and after the way Ferguson and players conducted themselves this weekend, it’s hard to imagine that they didn’t make at least a few new fans.