Where Should United Play Summer 2019 Exhibitions?
By Walter Diaz
Right now it’s a little bit early for talk abut next summer’s showcases. This past year we learned in April about the club’s U.S. matches, which marked the second year running that United has crossed the pond to show off for an increasingly interested and aware American audience. So it’ll likely be a few more months at least before concrete scheduling information comes out. It can still be fun to speculate however, and bat around ideas, and based on a few factors these are some exhibition possibilities that may make some sense for the club come next summer.
The U.S. Again
The U.S. simply makes for a big exhibition, and while Americans have plenty of sports to keep them happy, there really is a growing interest in the beautiful game. There’s a great deal of money in the idea for pretty much everyone involved, there tend to be good crowds on hand, and it can’t hurt for some of the younger players with Man Utd. to get used to playing in front of these crowds given that in just eight years America will host the World Cup. Plus, above all else, playing in America keeps United’s brand in good standing in a country full of remote supporters. There really isn’t a downside.
Dubai is a city that loves a spectacle, and in some cases is one itself. Despite not having any major local teams in noteworthy sports or international competitions, it’s had its share of exhibition-type events over the years, which means it’s well equipped to handle a match between Manchester United and one of the other top clubs from Europe. Here though, the idea is basically a more relevant version of the World Cup consideration mentioned regarding America. The Qatar World Cup will be here before we know it, and playing in neighboring Dubai during the summer could be invaluable international preparation for some of the club’s younger Cup hopefuls. Ofcourse, heat could be a problem (hence why the 2022 Cup will take place in the winter), but for just one match it should be manageable.
The capital of Indonesia may not seem like the most logical choice, until you realize just how many Manchester Untied supporters there are there. This past spring, an analysis was done with social media, determining which countries have the most United fans simply by looking at supporter Facebook group membership. Indonesia came out on top, which clearly sets the stage for a very entertaining exhibition, and one that would be valuable to tens of thousands of fans. The city’s main stadium, Gelora Bung Karno Stadium, is mostly a football venue, and holds over 75,000 spectators. With the right scheduling, hype, and an interesting opponent, Man Utd. could fill the place
up for a thrilling summer match.
It won’t come as a surprise to a lot of local United supporters that Northern Island is another international place with a high concentration of club supporters. Moreover, Ireland also keeps a close eye on the Premier League, both as a better version (let’s be honest) of the Irish leagues and due to the country’s relatively high sports betting interest. The country has a fairly lenient gambling culture in which licenses can be obtained for a fee to offer casino gaming, wagering, and related activities. And as a result, just as in the UK, there’s a strong local betting culture with Ireland-based sites and stores offering odds on international match play. This contributes to Ireland being closely tied to the EPL and this, combined with the Norther Ireland supporters, could bring spectators out in droves to a neighbourly exhibition in Dublin.
We know that there aren’t many countries in the world quite as invested in football’s growth as China is. While most efforts to lure star players to the Far East have failed, the country has made no mistake about its intent to use gaudy
contract offers to attempt to do just that. If China has its way, football will be a much bigger and better sport throughout the country another 15 or 20 years from now, and this means that an exhibition between major clubs in a place like Hong Kong would likely be promoted as if it’s a World Cup unto itself. This could be quite the spectacle, and more than any other idea on this list could conceivably launch an annual series of sorts. It’s worth a thought, at least!