United will never be short of a buck or two; Wayne Rooney is over his poor World Cup; America is football’s new cash cow
As Manchester United returned home on Monday night, the Old Trafford coffers were being boosted to the considerable tune of £8m through sponsorships and a four-game tour which has seen an incredible 360,000 fans take in their matches. Winning the Guinness International Cup, the pre-season tournament which United have already indicated they will compete in again next summer, earned them another £750,000. Since the success of the US national team at the World Cup and the fact that the Premier League is now screened on NBC, football is reaching parts of the US it has never gone to before. How the Glazers will love this.
Like United, Liverpool have strong American links in the boardroom with the influential John W Henry owning the club. However, a club with such a rich history as Liverpool means support overseas is not hard to muster. When Manchester City took on Brendan Rodgers’ side in New York last Wednesday, over three-quarters of a healthy 60,000 crowd wore the red of Liverpool. With Manchester United similarly revered here, City know there is a lot of ground to make up on their two Premier League rivals.
You would think after such a nightmare World Cup campaign with England that Wayne Rooney would have appeared a bit listless and uninterested in the United States yet in fact it was the complete opposite. Rooney was invigorated by the arrival of Louis van Gaal and was in good form, scoring four goals and playing with a smile on his face. He was made captain for the win over Liverpool in Miami and his celebration when levelling the scores in the 55th minute was out of sync for those who criticise these so-called meaningless matches. Rooney really looked to be enjoying himself – and Van Gaal appeared happy too.
With Frank Lampard and David Villa sealing their moves to Manchester City’s MLS franchise, which begins play from next season, it is clear that the club’s Abu Dhabi owners are deadly serious about establishing a global brand to match the biggest clubs in the world. With teams in Australia and Japan also set up, the City Football Group now have a network of franchises which will allow them to dip into a player pool which will be envy of others. It will be interesting to see if others copy their model, although billions of pounds of Middle Eastern oil money is required.
It wasn’t just the Premier League’s leading lights who have been playing over the pond this summer. Crystal Palace and Tottenham, as well as Arsenal – who played just one game in a five-day stay in New York – have all enjoyed fruitful visits to a country where the second most popular participation sport for children aged between nine and 12 is soccer, just behind American football. The Guinness International Champions Cup, which was able to attract such sides as Milan, Real Madrid, Internazionale and Roma, is here to stay with organisers delighted with the exposure gained this time around. With an increasing amount of American owners now populating the Premier League, the US now has a serious foothold in the beautiful game which shows little sign of weakening any time soon.