18 July 2012 by Roy Barford

Manchester United in South Africa 2012

Manchester United are thoroughly enjoying their 1st tour to South Africa in 4 years. Having beaten AmaZulu 1-0 at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Wednesday night, they move on to Cape Town to play Ajax Cape Town on Saturday afternoon.

The Manchester United logo. Photo courtesy Kieran Nguyen

Forbes magazine this week named Manchester United as the world's most valuable sports team, at $2.23-billion (or £1.43-billion). The Red Devils are estimated to have around 660-million fans – more than 10 times the population of South Africa, which contributes a healthy amount to that figure.

On Wednesday evening, Manchester United beat local team AmaZulu 1-0 in Durban, with Federico Macheda scoring in the 20th minute. 

The team will be staying in Cape Town in the build-up to Saturday's match, against Ajax Cape Town, so keep an eye out for opportunities to see some of the world's top footballers in the flesh.

Cape Town Stadium. Photo courtesy Steve Crane Cape Town Stadium. Photo courtesy Steve Crane

Rio Ferdinand is perhaps the most famous member of the Manchester United squad presently in South Africa. He's been with the club a decade now and has been a stalwart during this time. 

Follow him on Twitter for updates about his travels around South Africa. When he landed in South Africa on Monday night, he tweeted: 'What a welcome at these late times, loads of fans at the airport! Thank u.'

Paul Scholes is the other player even non-soccer fans will most likely recognise. He's been with Manchester United twice as long as Ferdinand, and made his debut for the club in 1994. 

Ajax Cape Town and the Cape Town Stadium featured in the 2012 blockbuster Safe House, which stars Ryan Reynolds and Denzel Washington. Reynolds plays an FBI agent trying to work out whether Washington's character is a friend or a foe. Either way, he has instructions to keep Washington under arrest, and the two become involved in an interesting exchange outside the stadium as an escape is attempted.

As it turned out, the elevator had to make several stops on the way up and Sir Bobby arrived at the press briefing before I did, without breaking a sweat.

In 2006 I was lucky enough to spend several hours with Manchester United squad members when they arrived in Durban for a match against Orlando Pirates. They seemed a very determined bunch, and even though it wasn't a major match at the time, took preparations very seriously. 

I arrived at Kings Park Stadium for a press briefing and hit the button for the elevator to take me to the 4th floor. As the doors began to close, Manchester United legend Sir Bobby Charlton walked past. I quickly slammed my arm against the door to stop it closing and shouted, 'Sir Bobby!' as I gestured to him to step inside. 'It's alright, I'll take the stairs,' he said with a cheerful smile. 

He was nearly 70 at the time and I was worried about him walking up 4 floors in the Durban heat, but who was I to argue? As it turned out, the elevator had to make several stops on the way up and Sir Bobby arrived at the press briefing before I did, without breaking a sweat. I suspected he'd at least be in need of a glass of water, but he cracked open a beer instead. A legend indeed!

The match between Manchester United and Ajax Cape Town starts at 3pm on Saturday. There aren't any tickets left, but if you don't have 1, you can watch the game live on SABC1 in South Africa.

Follow South African Tourism on Twitter and tweet your predictions for the match.

Category: Sport

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