Like the other thousands upon thousands of United supporters here in the States, I was excited to see that our team was coming to my city. Us Yanks wake up early every weekend for 9 months to see our team play some 4,000 miles away. We don our kits and our scarves in the wee hours of the morning, attempting – but failing miserably – to keep the decibel level at a minimum for the other people in the house who are rightfully sleeping at that time of day. Our TVs are turned down, but that doesn’t matter because we provide our own color commentary to more than make up for it. We feel like we are right there – at Old Trafford or White Hart Lane or Anfield or Stamford Bridge or Craven Cottage or even Liberty Stadium as of this year. It isn’t often that we get the chance to be a part of the live action, so we relish the opportunity to see the exhibition matches when they tour the US. Whether it’s a father taking his son to see the match or a football loving family all going to experience United football together; these matches definitely mean more to us, the lot who doesn’t see them in the flesh week in and week out, than to our brothers and sisters across the pond. But let’s not let nostalgia and a few pints get us deluded over the true reason behind these exhibition matches – exposure, fitness, and team cohesiveness.
Sure, we’d all love to say that Rooney had his best game in a United kit here in the States, which statistically very well may be the case, but when there are no stakes, it rightly diminishes the significance of a hat trick in 20 mins. Still, I would’ve loved to say I was at that match, even be able to tell my kids and my kids’ kids about it, but I understand and appreciate the reason why they’re here. Hell, I’d go and watch United train at a high school gym and be giddy like a kid who might get lucky after his senior prom. But knowing that my team is affording me the luxury of seeing them play live, stay in shape (or get fit – ahem, Anderson), provide exposure to the team and the beautiful game is well enough for me.
The 3-month window between May and August seems excruciatingly long for diehard fans, but it’s surprisingly short when you factor in international duty, the saga of the transfer window, and, if we’re lucky enough, a US tour. The players couldn’t sit around for 3 months and eat bangers and mash waiting for the kick off in early August. They need to stay fit, stay together, stay a team. This transfer window, our busiest one in many moons, saw some additions that we’re all eager to see. 3 months, if they’re signed right after season’s end, is the most time these players will have to mesh with the team before the new season kicks off. As the window gets closer to closing, as it now is, there’s even less time to get them acclimated to life in a United kit. This summer we got Phil Jones early, then Ashley Young, then David de Gea. On top of that, we have other players who are fighting for regular first team action who SAF needs to see in game situations. Keep them, loan them out, sell them? All things that a US tour affords. Accompany that with the duty and burden of expanding a brand and global image, Manchester United has a busy and hectic 3 months to put all this together.
Proper business and marketing plans can take years and several millions of dollars to set forth, organize, and implement. And while this tour was ironed out long ago, there is only about 1 month to maximize exposure while they’re here in the States. The YouTube video of the tour bus stopping to sign shirts was absolutely priceless and a savvy business play – and it cost nothing. Players obligingly sign and smile, they train in front of fans, they make appearances – something I’m sure they don’t do when they’re back in England. It’s all a ploy, but if it allows me a picture or an autograph – something that I’ll cherish forever – I’m all for it. And while they’re getting exposure here in the States, they’re also getting exposure amongst themselves. Spending a compact month with your teammates pretty much 24 hours a day – old ones or new transfers – bands the team together.
So, in the end, tickets are sold and smiles are had all around, but a US tour is definitely a strategic mix of staying fit, meshing with your team, and getting your name out. Now, if you ask the 50,000 fans in New England, or the 68,000 in Seattle, or the 61,000 in Chicago, or the 25,000+ in New York, or the 97,000 fans in DC, they won’t much care. Because when they get home after their match with a new scarf or Chicharito jersey or an autograph or a picture with their favorite player, they’ll only remember the reason why they went in the first place – because we all love Manchester United. And for Manchester United, that in itself is reason enough for a US tour, regardless of anything else.
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasTheDevil
Post picture courtesy of ManUtd.com