Manchester United arrived in Seattle today in advance of its Wednesday game against the Sounders.
One of the first orders of business was a press conference with manager Sir Alex Ferguson. Here are some highlights (with a few answers shortened or tweaked because, apparently, I do not always understand English):
On the popularity of soccer in Seattle:Soccer is definitely working here. When we came here and played Celtic, of course, you could understand it. There was a great incentive to go forward from there, and now you’re seeing the fruits of that.
On the international popularity of Man U: Throughout the world it’s got that magnetism about it. I think you go back 50-odd years … they always had great players and played the right way. When I came to the club 25 years ago, first to Taiwan and Japan, I was amazed, there where thousand of supporters. At that time we had never really created what we see today. I think the romance has always been there for Manchester United and it’s just got bigger and bigger since then.
On the importance of the Sounders game:I think we need to stretch ourselves a little bit. Our experience of last year, MLS teams were very difficult in Philadelphia and Kansas – we lost a game in Kansas. It’s a good idea of how the strength of MLS is now. It’s improving, there’s no question about that. The crowds are improving, as has been indicated. It will be a tough game for us, but we need that. Obviously I was able to make changes (Wednesday in a 4-1 win at New England). I was able to start with one team and make some changes at halftime. I think making changes at halftime is important. It doesn’t upset the rhythm of the game. When you start making all those substitutions in the second half, the game loses its momentum and sometimes fades away. Fortunately last night that wasn’t the case and it kept up a good rhythm to the match. Play opened in the second half and we wound up playing very well. Hopefully with one game behind our belts we’ll be better next Wednesday, which will be a tougher game, of course.
On the EPL season ahead If you look at the way the league has changed over the last couple of years, we used to talk about a top four with ourselves and Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool. You can’t say that anymore because Man City have definitely come into the frame … and Tottenham Hotspur last year probably having the run in the European Cup just stretched them too much and they ended upa bit out of the top four. But you look at those teams and you say to yourself, well anyone of them could win the league. Anyone of them. That’s why it’s a big challenges again this season. There are changes. It’s not an easy league to win.
On wanting a good result against the SoundersIt’s always important to us because of the expectation and the responsibility of the fans that are going to be here to watch us – same as last night: There were 51,000 to match us in that game in Boston, where the normal fan crowd is something like 9-10,000. I know the average crowd here is something like 37,000, but Wednesday there will be 66,000, which is fantastic. With that kind of crowd you have to satisfy. The important thing of a match is that the fans understand that you’re trying your very, very best, and we will try our very very best next week.
My question for Sir Alex -- ah, I love saying that -- involved what MLS must to to even begin to climb toward the level of the great leagues of the world. His answer was long and thoughtful, and I will go over that in some detail later.