18/07/2008 07:36, Report by Nick Coppack in South Africa

Blog: A warm welcome

This year's pre-season preparations takes the Reds to South Africa and Nigeria. journalist Nick Coppack will deliver regular blogs from inside the United camp.

You could hear them before you could see anything.

Snippets of “Glory, glory Man United” filtered into the baggage reclaim area, while horns blared and drums pounded distinctive African rhythms.

When the doors opened, screams replaced the singing, as hundreds of South African supporters caught a glimpse of their United heroes. It may have only been 8am in Cape Town, but South African Reds had commandeered the arrivals lounge to create a buzzing, welcoming atmosphere. Even after an 11-hour flight with little sleep (by the way, why do I always get stuck next to young children on long-haul flights?), you couldn't help but be charmed.

Some fans danced to the beat, others blew whistles and waved flags. But everywhere you looked, smiles flashed as brightly as the cameras. Make no mistake: United are massive in this part of the world –  even airport security staff were asking for autographs.

Once on the bus, a police escort whisked players and staff through the streets of Cape Town – past the shanty towns, private schools and municipal pools – to the sea-front hotel where we’ll base ourselves for the next three-and-a-half days.

This afternoon I’m heading to Newlands Stadium to cover Sir Alex’s press conference and the team's first training session on South African soil. Until then, I'm off to grab some sleep…


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