Here’s some reaction from some Sounders — plus Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson — reaction to today’s announcement that the clubs will meet at 7 p.m. July 20 at Qwest Field as part of the Red Devils’ United States tour.
On the tour) We’re looking forward to this tour. It’s our fourth visit now to the States, and I’ve got to say there is much improvement in the standard of soccer in the United States and the new MLS league have proven a very, very competitive league now.
On Sounders FC support) “Very few clubs in the Premier League get that. Obviously the top teams like United, Liverpool and Arsenal, Tottenham, they all exceed that. But 36,000, that’s a fantastic figure that.
On the ’03 game against Celtic at Qwest Field) “When we came to Seattle to play Celtic some six years ago, the crowd was fantastic that day. There’s a market there to see top soccer, and I think we’ll provide that, hopefully.”
On what Man U gains from the tour) Last year we saw an increase in the number of supporters we have in the United States, and hopefully this is sign of good times for us. … Also it’s a chance for teams in MLS to measure themselves against teams such as ourselves and Barcelona.
On Kasey Keller, current Sounder and former EPL keeper) “Oh yes, I remember him well. … He had a great career in England. He’s an outstanding goalkeeper. … If you can look after yourself you can stay a long time in the game. Goalkeepers can do that, if they look after themselves. It’s achievable, so well done for Kasey.
I’ve played Man U a bunch of times, and it’s always a good time. They’re one of the marquee teams in the world. … It’s a great showcase for what we’ve done here as a club, having Chelsea and Barcelona and now Manchester United. We just need Real and Bryron Munich and a few others and we’ll finish it off.
On the preference of playing just one major friendly this season) Especially with the addition of four extra games and then you come in now with Champions League and everything else. I think it makes a lot of sense for the club on the marketing side, but also it’s not a burden to the players. I think the guys will be excited to play this game.
On his own history vs. Man U) I don’t know what my total record is. I know I beat them in cups. I won a game 1-0 at Old Trafford one time with Leicester City. I got my (butt) kicked one time, 6-1 at home. I think a lot of 1-0’s to be honest we lost. I think I lost 1-0 one time with Tottenham and a few other times. I didn’t play in a game we were winning went I was with Spurs we were winning 3-0 at halftime and lost 5-3. I didn’t play in that one, so I’m not taking any credit on that one. I’ve had some good results, but most of the time when you come up against Man U you’re going to lose. That’s why they’re at the top of the league every year.
STEVE ZAKUANI (a Londoner who played in the Arsenal youth system)
It’s great obviously. … They a huge team, first in England right now, still in the Champions League, favorites to win the Premiership. So, I just think it’s great. The fans are going to see some great players to come in. … It’s going to be fun for us. We’re still a pretty young team, so anytime you can match these kinds of guys on the same field, you know? For them it’s preseason, but it will still be an exciting time. … You have to respect what they’ve done, year after year to compete like that. We’re seeing the reality of that here: that it’s hard to come out every year and stay on top. I think we respect them. As I was a kid that was a team that I rooted against, but as I grow older I can appreciate what they have.
“It’s great. Obviously in year one we played Chelsea and Barcelona and I think our fans sort of grew used to that. So being able to play Manchester United which is a club with the same caliber and the same level as those, maybe even has exceeded those clubs at certain times to a certain extent, it’s a great honor to be playing them. It’s something our team is looking forward to.”
On his approach to the friendly) “We will see where we are at that point in the season. You can’t predict that now. You don’t know where you are going to be at injury-wise and everything else. A week later we are going to have a CONCACAF play-in game so we’ve got to look at all those factors. But it’s definitely one of those games where everybody wants to get on the field so it might be a situation where a group plays the first half and a group plays the second.”
On hosting only one friendly, after three last season) “I think that is enough. That was the intent of the business group was to make it one high quality friendly rather than have a number of them that maybe aren’t at that same stature. I think this is a perfect compromise.”
Btw, the game will be played on a temporary natural-grass surface, which the Sounders also will use for the preceding and following league matches: vs. Colorado on July 16 and Philadelphia on July 23.