CHICAGO • Manchester United are considering a lucrative return to Asia for their pre-season tour next summer, a move that would be welcomed by leading club sponsors but might irk manager Louis van Gaal.
The Dutchman was granted his wish for a scaled-back tour of the United States this month, after he complained publicly about the club's hectic travel schedule on their previous visit to the country last year.
United were able to accommodate van Gaal's requests quite easily, since their commercial responsibilities were cut drastically because of the club's new £750 million (S$1.6 billion) kit deal with adidas not commencing until tomorrow.
Yet a return to Asia next year would mean a surge in the number of public engagements that would herald the hysteria that usually accompanies their tours to the continent.
That would make keeping a lower profile difficult, and force van Gaal to be more flexible with his plans.
United had 71 public engagements this summer compared with 184 in the US last year. They could expect a similarly high figure in Asia.
Chevrolet, whose seven-year shirt sponsorship deal with United is worth £357 million, and Aon, which sponsor the training kit and Carrington headquarters to the tune of £22.5 million annually to 2021, are keen to raise their profile in Asia.
United last toured Asia in 2013, when they visited Bangkok, Osaka and Tokyo and Hong Kong, in addition to Sydney. They have visited China twice in the past six years.
Van Gaal insisted on two training camps in Seattle and San Jose this time around, with the sites based close to the team hotels and stadiums. He was unhappy at the long distances United had to travel to train and play matches last year, as well as having to stop in five US cities.
The schedule allowed the United manager to maximise training times - the Dutchman has been holding double sessions most days - in addition to ensuring that his players are rested. And he believes that his side will be prepared for the new season.
"We changed a lot of things in relation to this tour and had only two base camps with fantastic facilities in Seattle and also at the Avaya Stadium and Stanford University (in San Jose), so overall we have had better training camps," he said.
THE TIMES, LONDON