Sponsors turn screw on United to play in China
Louis van Gaal may have to undertake a gruelling pre-season trip to China next summer, with Manchester United's major sponsors increasingly keen to exploit the club's commercial power in the Far East.
United concluded their summer tour of the United States in the early hours of this morning with an International Champions Cup friendly against Paris Saint-Germain at Soldier Field in Chicago.
However, despite Van Gaal declaring United's pre-season preparations in the States a success because of the carefully selected training bases in Seattle and San Jose, he is facing the prospect of having to plan a tour of China and neighbouring countries next year in order to satisfy the wishes of Chevrolet and Aon, the two American companies who collectively account for over £75m of the club's annual commercial revenue.
United have toured the USA four times in the past six years, but have not embarked on a full tour of the Far East and Asia since in 2009.
A week-long trip to Australia two years ago was extended by visits to Thailand, Japan and Hong Kong.
But, with United visiting China only once since 2009 - the club made a short visit to Shanghai following a 10-day trip to South Africa in July 2012 - senior figures are now aware of the need to return to the country, which hosted Real Madrid and Bayern Munich this summer in front of huge crowds.
Chevrolet, which pays a world record £53m a year to sponsor United's shirts, has made China the focal point of the company's business plan, with the car manufacturer closing down its European operation to concentrate heavily on the Chinese market.
When the United shirt deal was announced by Chevrolet at the Shanghai motor show in 2012, page impressions on the company's website exceeded one billion in the space of a fortnight.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that United have debited season-ticket holders' bank accounts for a Champions League qualifying match which has no confirmed date or opponent.
United will not learn who they face in the play-off until August 7, with the actual date of the fixture to be decided at the same time.
United are seeded in the draw for the ties, which will take place on the August 18-19 and 25-26.
Elsewhere, Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny has joined Serie A title hopefuls Roma on a season-long loan deal.
The 25-year-old Poland international was limited to 17 Premier League appearances for the Gunners last season, with David Ospina gradually wresting control of the gloves at the Emirates Stadium, and the arrival of Petr Cech from Chelsea has increased competition further.
Szczesny told asroma.it: "I've come here to win matches and trophies with Roma and I think the team are strong enough to do that. I think there's great potential here." (© Daily Telegraph, London)