Quirky pre-season summer clashes
The phrase 'it's only a friendly' often isn't a fair reflection on such games. Aside from being helpful for pre-season fitness, to blood youngsters or to spread the United word, they possess a special ability to conjure up the weird and the wonderful.
The normal rules of the regular season don't apply, allowing the surreal a look-in. Here we revisit some of the true oddities of United's history, with the help of Forgotten Fixtures, a book dedicated to the Reds' friendly games down the years...
United 4-0 Jonkoping, Polo Grounds, New York, USA, 9 June 1950
This encounter proved a landmark for both sides in that it spanned two separate days. Starting at 10.15pm on 7 June, it finished at 12.05am on 8 June.
“It may have been rather late - or should I say early - for football, but there is no doubt the customers left for home happy,” explained United full-back Johnny Carey. Not quite so happy were the Swedes, who were soundly beaten 4-0. Charlie Mitten netted twice from the spot, while Tommy Bogan and Stan Pearson competed the scoring.
The world tour ahead of the 1975/76 season started in Switzerland before heading to Hong Kong and Australia ... via Tehran, naturally! A squad shorn of internationals Martin Buchan, Lou Macari, Alex Forsyth and Stewart Houston, as well as Steve Coppell, who was sitting university exams, plus Tony Young who'd failed to turn up at the airport having decided to leave the club, could only muster a draw thanks to a Sammy McIlroy goal.
After the FA Cup final win over Brighton & Hove Albion, United travelled to Swaziland for a money-spinning double header against Tottenham Hotspur. The Reds took the initiative by taking the first fixture 2-1. Before the re-match, which Spurs won 2-0, both teams joined to form a 'Tottman' XI that beat Swaziland 6-1. With Tottenham and United having won a game each, a deciding penalty shoot-out was held in which the London side triumphed.
Little was made of the visit of a Japanese touring side coached by Reds legend Bill Foulkes, but the three dozen or so spectators were the first to see Peter Schmeichel in a United shirt. The Dane would go on to become a cornerstone of the club's success in the 1990s but he could do little to prevent the visitors beating the European Cup-Winners' Cup holders 2-1.
The Thailand players were each offered £1,550 by a local businessman to score against United. The team’s manager Virat Champarich added £150 of his own money to the kitty, which was won by Sirapan when a neat dribble took him past Ronny Johnsen, Nicky Butt and Wes Brown and allowed him to fire home. Ryan Giggs and Quinton Fortune scored at the other end for United.
United 2-1 Portsmouth, Abuja, Nigeria, 27 July 2008
The Nigerian media suggested there had been one million ticket applications for what was effectively a Community Shield rehearsal staged in Africa, including 5,000 from the UK and another 5,000 from Ghana! Jermain Defoe scored a consolation for Pompey after Chris Eagles and Carlos Tevez put the Reds 2-0 up. When the sides met again at Wembley a fortnight later, and drew 0-0, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side lifted the Shield after beating Harry Redknapp’s men 3-1 on penalties.
All six of Manchester United’s pre-season games will be available to watch live on MUTV, including the clashes with Tottenham Hotspur, Inter Milan and AC Milan.