'Onana signing is as big as Rooney or Ronaldo!'

Wednesday 13 September 2023 13:14

Excitement is especially high among African Reds right now, with Andre Onana (Cameroon) and Sofyan Amrabat (Morocco) two of the club's high-profile signings during the summer transfer window.

It's been a busy few months for our African supporters too, with Zambia and Tanzania among the latest countries to register official fan groups.

When we caught up with the lead contact for our Zambia branch, Dayan Mofya, ahead of this weekend's Brighton game, that excitement came through loud and clear.

Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia where our supporters' club is based, might be more than 4,000km from the village of Ngol Ngok where Onana was born, but there's huge continental pride that United's new no.1 hails from Africa.

United's African connection is stronger than ever


Why the Reds currently have the largest representation from the continent in our history.

“On the Zambian side, we don't have a player playing for Manchester United,” laments Dayan, “but we support anyone that is African and, believe me, right now the mood now across the fans in Zambia... we think Andre Onana is probably the third-biggest signing after Rooney and Ronaldo!
“We think he's a great addition to the club. Just the way he's so comfortable with the ball,  his feet, the way he plays from the back, he gives us that extra dimension. We are super excited we've got such a player coming from Africa.
“His first few games, he's allowed in some goals, but those goals, even De Gea or Peter Schmeichel would have let them in. So far, for me, I would rate him eight out of 10. He was a bit lucky to not give a penalty against Wolves, but I think he's a fantastic player and it's great that he's one of us now.”
Mofya tries to make it to Old Trafford every two or three months, flying through Paris to reach Manchester and then staying at either Hotel Football, or in nearby Salford. And he says that, since the supporters' club went official, the strength of United's support in Zambia has become clearer.
“We are based in Lusaka, which is the capital city of Zambia, and we do our game screenings at a little club in Woodlands [south of the city],” he explains. “But we're actually connecting to affiliate more clubs out of Lusaka, because at the moment we did announce that we would be having screenings and meetings from there, all of the other clubs from out of town were asking if they could affiliate to us. So we look forward to building more than this one.
“If you go out to a pub or to a school or to church,  if you meet about 20 soccer fans, five will be United fans. So we just thought we should come together with that core interest of supporting one club and being together. We have a lot of fans, a lot of fans, across the country here.”
Dayan on one of his regular jaunts to Old Trafford to see his beloved Reds.
Given Amad (Ivory Coast) and Hannibal (Tunisia) also represent Africa within the United squad, there's arguably never been a better time to be an African Red – though some fans are nervous about how the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations might affect United's season. Dayan, however, is looking at the positives.
“Andre Onana, if he wants to play for his AFCON team, good for him, ” he enthuses. “As a player, to represent your national team is a big, big, big honour on the field. And United is a big club – that's why we've got back-up for any player in each position.

“We've got Kobbie Mainoo who can fill in that position where Amrabat would be, and the new goalkeeper from Turkey [Altay Bayindir] that's going to fill in for the position where Onana plays. So we're not worried. It's going to be a busy period but we've got good players to fill those positions.”

Victorious Cameroon return for Onana


Andre played his part in his first international appearance since 2022, while plenty of other Reds were also in action.

But before AFCON kicks off early next year, there's another trip to Old Trafford for Dayan and his fellow Zambian Reds to look forward to.

“I'm coming for the Man City game in October with a friend – I'm bringing the good luck charm from Africa. There's no way City are beating us at home!” he laughs. “The last time I was there I came to watch a game against Aston Villa at Old Trafford. Before that I was there in December and watched a game with Nottingham Forest and Burnley, in the Carabao Cup. Last September, for the Arsenal game, I was there with a colleague.

“I went to watch Leicester play Everton as well, because we have one of the Zambian players playing for Leicester [Patson Daka]. Any player that's out there, if we are travelling, we'll give support to our boys. But I've been a Man United supporter since 1992, so it's not in my tradition to support any other team. 
“But one day, hopefully we are going to see a Zambian player playing for Manchester United!”