17/07/2012 09:54, Report by Nick Coppack in Durban
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Blog: Fans' joy infectious

In Manchester, they smile politely. You might even stretch the description to a toothy grin.

In South Africa, though, people gasp, gawp and gaze in astonishment at the sight of Manchester United players doing "ordinary" things like boarding a waiting bus or checking into hotels. This is life on the Manchester United pre-season tour. And it's only natural: it means more to fans here because they see the players less.

Indeed, for supporters in Durban and Cape Town, the first two stops on the Reds' epic tri-continental summer sojourn, a Manchester United spotting is as rare as witnessing a lion kill on safari: not quite once-in-a-lifetime, but certainly an event you'd expect to see no more than every couple of years.

Which is why, for the duration of our stay, we'll witness the same levels of giddy excitement at training sessions and visits to local communities as we did on Monday night when we arrived at Durban's King Shaka airport and were met by hundreds of screaming, cheering fans.

The great shame of it all is that, just as in one of this country's grand game reserves, if you blink you'll almost inevitably miss the action. United's schedule, you see, dictates that Sir Alex's men can spend just five days here in South Africa as part of the DHL 2012 Tour: three in Durban, two in Cape Town.

Even so, a little is better than none at all and despite the many miles that lie between Old Trafford and the supporters in South Africa – a nation that fell in love with football long before the 2010 World Cup was bestowed upon it, by the way – United's popularity here endures.

The Reds have boasted strong links with this part of the world ever since goalkeeper Gary Bailey (born in England but raised in South Africa) pulled on the club's colours in 1978.

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