United handle China tour with greater care
Amid the controversy kicked up by Real Madrid's visit to the capital, English Premiership side Manchester United are looking to handle their tour of China with greater care.
Real Madrid left Beijing on Sunday morning with swelled coffers but a diminished reputation after their lacklustre display on Saturday evening.
Arriving in Beijing on Sunday evening, just a few hours after their European rivals departed, the United players have been keeping a low profile, but pledged not to disappoint their fans.
"We are preparing for every match," said the club's England international striker, Alan Smith. "The match against the Beijing club is also good preparation for the new season. This is very important for us."
Compared with Real's one-hour training session at the Workers' Stadium and a five-minute free kick exhibition in Tianjin, Manchester United players had a more intense one-and-a-half-hour training session yesterday morning, giving fans a chance to get autographs and take pictures with the players.
The 15-time champions of England's top division will take on Beijing Guo'an tonight at the Workers' Stadium, just three days after the China Super league club lost 3-2 to Real in pouring rain.
"I think tomorrow's match will be a tough game, 3-2 is close," said veteran midfielder Paul Scholes. "I don't know if Real played their best match. But Real are a team of quality and have great players. So, we must be careful. It will be a difficult match."
Real Madrid's lackadaisical performance has drawn criticism, leading some fans to doubt whether the English club will take the match seriously. "I will field the strongest team tomorrow. It is the team that will compete in the championship," Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson said. "I will make some changes during the match. The goal is to win the match."
As well as established stars like Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand and Cristiano Ronaldo, another big draw for the Beijing crowd will be Manchester's Chinese youngster Dong Fangzhuo.
Originally from Dalian, Dong scored a brilliant goal off the bench in the club's 2-0 win over Hong Kong last Friday.
(China Daily 07/26/2005 page1)
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