ManUtd.com journalist Nick Coppack writes from the press box at the Newlands Stadium, Cape Town.
Cacophony hardly does it justice.
Horns, drums, whistles… they all combine to create a musical melange of appreciation so fierce it’s fanatical. And then there are the screams. Oh, how they scream: for Rooney, for Giggs, for Scholes. Even young goalkeeper Ben Amos prompts an ear-splitting shriek from the Newlands crowd when he saunters onto the pitch to warm up.
Manchester United are in town and, fresh from celebrating Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday the previous day, Cape Town is in party mood. In fact, the stadium announcer even leads the crowd through a rendition of Happy Birthday before kick-off.
In Moscow back in May I witnessed Mancunians dancing in the aisles at the Luzhniki Stadium. Fair enough, too: the Reds had just won the Champions League final.
Here in Cape Town, however, for a match officially deemed a pre-season friendly, there’s similar excitement. Whole sections of the stand sway and bounce in unison – never more so than when Michael Carrick and Ben Foster paraded the club’s recent silverware.
It’s only when you visit these far-flung territories – South Africa, the Far East – that you truly grasp Manchester United’s global appeal. Sure, you can get a feel for it if you tally shirt sales (and yes, there are thousands of replica tops dotted around the crowd).
But the real measure of the Reds’ popularity can be seen in the faces of those who catch glimpses of their heroes at the hotel, the construction workers who throw down their tools to cheer and wave as the team bus flies past.
In simple terms, United inspire joy. They enrich, excite and uplift. And when the Reds emerge from the tunnel in Cape Town, I swear even the roof raises an inch or two. Such is the noise.