21/07/2008 10:05, Report by Nick Coppack in Durban, South Africa
Blog: Reds arrive in Durban
Nick Coppack, ManUtd.com's man in South Africa, blogs about the team's transfer to Durban...
You had to feel sorry for them, held back at junctions by traffic police during Monday morning rush hour.
Not that the Cape Town motorists seemed to mind. Well, not when they realised the roads had been closed for Manchester United. They simply smiled and waved.
Like trips between the team hotel and the stadium for training and matches, the local authorities provided a police escort for the bus ride to Cape Town airport.
It’s a surreal experience, having the road to yourself in a big city. It’s also an extremely slick operation.
Police cars, lights flashing and sirens wailing, bookend the official vehicles – there’s the team coach, the media bus and another van carrying directors, club staff and guests – while officers on motorbikes speed ahead, stopping at junctions and traffic lights (or, as they call them here in South Africa, “robots”) to halt drivers and ensure a smooth passage. When the convoy passes through, it’s back on the bikes and ahead to the next point to execute the same routine.
So successful is the manoeuvre, we never stop moving from the moment we pull out of the hotel driveway until we reach the tarmac at Cape Town International airport. There’s no check-in this morning (You don't get this with Ryanair), instead we drive right onto the runway.
The charter flight to Durban – complete with Manchester United crest on the plane’s side – takes two hours and, just as it was when we arrived in the country on Friday morning, there’s a colourful, vocal reception waiting at arrivals.
“Good luck tomorrow,” one fan shouts. “Go Manchester!” yells another.
Airport security staff usher us into more vehicles and we’re whisked away,