Shinji Kagawa has become United’s first Japanese signing, but the Reds have several other links with the Land of the Rising Sun…
Sharp Electronics were United’s first shirt sponsors, and the Japanese electronics company had their logo emblazoned across the Reds' shirts from 1982 in a deal that lasted almost two decades. The partnership came to an end after the 1999/2000 season, at which point Vodafone became the Reds' principle sponsor.
In 1989, the Reds’ maiden voyage to Japan pitted them against familiar foes, as Howard Kendall’s Everton overcame the Reds 3-1 in Kobe. Just 8,000 fans were present, but a whopping 40,000 turned up to watch United face a Japanese National XI in Tokyo, where Mark Robins scored the only goal of a hard-fought game.
While Peter Schmeichel’s United career ended in glorious circumstances in the sporting mecca of Barcelona’s Camp Nou, it began in distinctly less salubrious surrounds, against Japanese side Mazda at Littleton Road back in 1991. Former Red Bill Foulkes managed the visitors, who won 2-1 in a game watched by only a handful of spectators.
United have thrice locked horns with Urawa Red Diamonds in pre-season tours of Asia. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (1997, Tokyo) and Wayne Rooney (2005, Saitama) both bagged braces in 2-0 victories, while Darren Fletcher and Cristiano Ronaldo scored in a 2-2 draw in July 2007. Two years earlier, Kashima Antlers sprang an almighty shock as they overcame the Reds 2-1 in Tokyo.
On top of the world
Winning the Treble in 1999 secured United a shot at the Intercontinental Cup, and with it the title of the world’s greatest club side. Luiz Felipe Scolari’s Palmeiras stood in the way and United were indebted to a fine performance from goalkeeper Mark Bosnich in keeping the