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Man Utd's reputation takes a hit

Manchester United are playing in the US right now as part of the ChampionsWorld Series tour. The purpose is to grab some cash, of course, and build their reputation in the US market. They're grabbing the cash alright, but the reputation is taking a hit. Here's this from the Daily Telegraph:

"Ferguson is forced to fly in big guns"

The club's board have been surprised by the response of fans and sponsors after United fielded a team of mainly youth and reserve players against Bayern Munich in Chicago last Sunday and have asked Ferguson to call up the four internationals. Some sections of the 58,121 crowd at Soldier Field booed and there was stinging criticism in the Chicago newspapers.

...The Chicago Sun-Times said of Sunday's match: "This was awful." The newspaper added that fans had paid up to $150 for a ticket, yet the match was "more about pageantry and financial profitability for the participants than it was about quality soccer".

The lack of famous names jarred with the promotional activity surrounding United's tour. In Chicago's flagship Nike store - the company has a £302 million kit deal with the club - posters advertising the United merchandise featured Van Nistelrooy, Scholes, Silvestre, Ryan Giggs, Howard and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who were all missing, the last through injury, from Sunday's match.

United drew 0-0 with Bayern on Sunday, and lost 2-1 to Celtic last night in Philadelphia. Van Nistelrooy, Saha, Scholes, and Silvestre will fly in to make cameo appearances in the next matches, but that won't change the perception of the soccer.

Top clubs throughout Europe are resting their best players after the international tournaments this summer. Pre-season friendlies there are much like pre-season NFL games here: limited action from the stars, and generally one big snooze-fest. It's the right policy for Man Utd's players and prospects for the forthcoming season. But parading the banner under the ChampionsWorld Tour with a reserve squad doesn't do much for your reputation with US fans, not at $150 a ticket at least.