The idea of Manchester United playing mid week friendlies abroad in the absence of European competition this season has resulted in a huge debate amongst the various people connected with the football club.

Manchester United have never been afraid to chart out their own path even if it means ruffling a few feathers along the way. One of the most famous instances highlighting this fact is from the summer of 1956 when The Red Devils became the first English team to compete in the European Cup. The English FA were against United entering the competition and had stopped Chelsea from competing a season earlier.

Their rationale was that the European Cup would take away some of the sheen from the domestic league and would undermine its integrity. But United & Sir Matt Busby did not budge and took part in the competition and since then the club have had a storied relationship with the European Cup.

Fast forward 43 years to the summer of 1999 and those heady days following the treble success. FIFA had just created a World Team Championship which was to feature the best club sides from each of the 6 continents and on account of being the Champions League winners United were asked to represent Europe. The caveat though was that this championship was overlapping with the third & fourth rounds of the FA Cup. As a result the club were left with the decision of choosing to compete in either the FA Cup or flying across the Atlantic to take part in the World Team Championship.

Manchester Unitedai??i??s board decided to go with the latter option which angered quite a few supporters who felt that the club were devaluing the grand old competition in favour of a mickey-mouse one. Many though believed that the FA had pressured United into attending the World Team Championship given that they wanted to secure some brownie points with FIFA to boost Englandai??i??s chances of hosting the 2006 World Cup. Whatever the truth the Old Trafford based clubai??i??s marketing department must have welcomed this move given the potential it opened for them in markets far from the British Isles.

Both these cases demonstrate that the decision makers at Manchester United have always taken a long term view & if the supporters or the authorities are angered along the way then so be it. This look back at the annals of this great institution brings us nicely to the present day scenario.

Louis-van-Gaal_en(dot)wikipedia(dot)org

Louis Van Gaal was not impressed when Manchester United had to travel large distances during the pre season

Reports have emerged over the last few weeks that Manchester United are looking at playing midweek friendlies in the Middle East & South East Asia. This new avenue was explored by the club following their absence from the Champions League & early exit from the League Cup. While there has been angst directed at the club from some quarters regarding this latest development, all concerned must take a balanced view when analyzing this potential decision.

Firstly, due to the absence of European football this season Manchester United are set to report a decrease of 10% in their annual revenue. In addition, Unitedai??i??s absence from this blue riband competition has resulted in them paying greater transfer fees & wages for all their recent acquisitions. These friendlies will ensure that Manchester Unitedai??i??s coffers remain filled.

Secondly, there is a huge market for Manchester United outside Europe, something which was quite evident when they drew in a crowd in excess of 100,000 when playing Real Madrid during the pre-season this summer. One can just imagine the excitement which a potential mid season trip to a Saudi Arabia, India or Japan will generate given the fan base which exists for The Red Devils in that part of the world.

Thirdly, Manchester United have just one midweek Premier league match left in 2014 & three in the first three months of 2015 and if FA Cup replays are avoided then there are huge swathes of space in the itinerary. If a trip to Asia can be arranged then match practice will be ensured and the players will have an opportunity to escape the dreadful English winter.

On the contrary, manager Louis Van Gaal was not impressed when Manchester United had to travel great distances to the pre-season warm games and it remains to be seen how the Dutchman will react if the decision regarding these friendlies does come to a fruition.

Richard Arnold, Manchester Unitedai??i??s managing director, who is one of the central figures behind this initiative will also have to ensure that none of these friendlies clash with the Champions League games. Already the English FA has had to pay a fine when some lower league matches overlapped with the UEFA organized competitions & United would have to take this into cognizance before a final decision is taken.

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