Premier League giants Manchester United have confirmed, via a notice on the club's official Web site, tickets for their 2012 pre-season tour have been made available for purchase. Sir Alex Ferugson's side will go on a world tour of sorts before kicking off their league campaign, on 18 August, away to Everton. The Red Devils are scheduled to play two games in South Africa, one in China and one in Norway before returning to prepare for the regular season.
The club will play their first game in South Africa on 18 July, at the Moses Mabhida Stadium 8 pm (local time), against AmaZulu. Reports on the club's Web site describe their first opponents on the tour as being a vastly improved outfit from the 2010/11 South African Premier Soccer League (PSL), when they only avoided relegation on goal difference. Last season, however, AmaZulu finished an impressive seventh place, with 41 points and 10 wins in 30 games; they managed only 30 points and five wins the season before. The South Africans will be managed by 49 year old Swede Roger Palmgren, whose accomplishments include leading Sierra Leone in the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations; they finished third in Group B, behind former champions Algeria (1990) and reigning title holders Zambia.
United's second game will be on 21 July. The side will face Ajax Cape Town at the Cape Town Stadium at 3 pm (local time). Ajax Cape Town was formed in 1999 under a franchise agreement with Dutch and European giants Ajax. The African club receives the benefit of the Dutch club's expertise and training skills and should provide a tough opponent. Ajax Cape Town enjoyed a spectacular 2010/11 campaign, finishing level on points with champions Orlando Pirates. They lost the title on goal difference - by four goals. Nevertheless, for so young a football club they have had impressive results, regularly finishing in the top ten. Indeed they even finished second in the 2003/04 season, on that occasion to the Kaizer Chiefs.
Meanwhile, former United goal keeper Gary Bailey, who grew up in South Africa and spent two seasons with the Kaizer Chiefs (1988 - 1990), spoke to the club's Web site and admitted South Africa was excited about United coming to play.
"South Africa always becomes very excited whenever United are coming over on a pre-season tour," Bailey told ManUtd.com, "There's a huge following for the club over here and given the season we've just had, how exciting that was and how well we played, there's a sense of pride about the club. With the coverage of the Premier League out here - we get every single match - everybody watches the games and the excitement of last season has just heightened things for all fans here."
Manchester United will also be in China, for the first time in three years, to play Shanghai Shenhua. The game will be a particularly exciting one because the Chinese side's attack will be led by former Chelsea strike duo Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba, both of whom have caused the United back line much grief in their Stamford Bridge days. The two sides will play for the Chevrolet China Cup, at the Shanghai Stadium, on 25 July.
The 2012 pre-season tour will wrap up with a game in Oslo, on 5 August, against Valerenga. Incidentally, former United man Ronny Johnsen left Old Trafford for the Ulleval Stadium and helped the club win the Norwegian title in 2005 - that win broke a stunning 13 year title winning spree for rivals Rosenberg.
Manchester United have declared ticket sales for the South Africa games open. Click here for more information. Meanwhile, ticketing news for the games against Valerenga and Shenhua have yet to be announced.