Giants Manchester United bound for Sydney?
Fourteen years after they last graced Australian shores, Manchester United are set to make their next visit to Sydney, with a friendly match scheduled for July 20 at ANZ Stadium.
Destination NSW - the government arm charged with attracting major events to the state - and Football Federation Australia are putting the finishing touches on a deal, which could be announced as early as next week.
While the deal is not done, and the club is yet to put pen to paper on a final agreement, it is believed all parties, including ANZ Stadium, have verbally agreed to start planning for the tour.
The opponent will be an A-League all-star team, likely to be headed by Sydney FC marquee Alessandro Del Piero and potentially featuring a sprinkling of stars from other clubs including Marcos Flores, Thomas Broich, Besart Berisha and Shane Smeltz - and possibly coached by Ange Postecoglou or Graham Arnold.
It's unlikely that local players with Socceroos' commitments - such as Brett Emerton, Archie Thompson and Mark Milligan - would be called into the team as they could be in South Korea for the East Asian Cup, which begins the same day.
Destination NSW is preparing to tip $3 million into the hosting of the event but they are seeking absolute assurances that the Red Devils will bring out their best team as well as manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
With a massive Asian following, the club frequently makes visits to the far east and is expected to play at least two matches in the region. However, for now, they are expected to play only one match in Australia.
FFA is thought to have secured a direct line into the Old Trafford management through their commercial operations chief David Tucker, who spent almost three years as head of Manchester United's merchandising division.
The last time Manchester United played in Australia, against the Socceroos in 1999 in both Sydney and Melbourne, the famous club used a sprinkling of big names and reserve players - but left David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville and Ferguson at home, while none of Ryan Giggs, Andy Cole, Teddy Sheringham, Jaap Stam and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer started in both matches.
This time, the $3 million fee is thought to be conditional on the strength of the team that plays - similar to the deal done with Beckham's LA Galaxy when they toured the eastern seaboard in recent years.
That means Manchester United's best players, like Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand and Nani would all be expected to start against the A-League selection.
It's believed that earlier concerns over United's impending shirt sponsorship with American car manufacturer Chevrolet, which conflicts with the FFA's agreement with Hyundai, will be overlooked.
If the game can go ahead it will complete an enormous month for ANZ Stadium, cementing the busiest time for the stadium since the 2000 Olympics.
On July 6, the venue hosts the Wallabies against the British and Irish Lions, followed the subsequent week by the NSW Waratahs-Queensland Reds clash. On July 17, three days before Manchester United are expected to play, the third and possibly deciding game for State of Origin will to be played at the same venue.
After the exhibition football match - expected to draw a capacity 82,000 crowd - traditional rugby league rivals St George and South Sydney square off before Canterbury host Parramatta on July 26. To complete the month, on August 10, reigning AFL premiers Sydney face Collingwood in their annual Homebush blockbuster.
Sydney Morning Herald