Manchester United bigger than Brazil, says Charlton

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 April, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 April, 2005, 12:00am

Sir Bobby Charlton says he will be very surprised if the Red Devils fail to fill Hong Kong Stadium to capacity in this summer's ING Manchester United Cup match against Hong Kong, despite a full-strength Brazilian side attracting just 26,000 fans in February.

Organisers are hoping for another full house as United make their third appearance in Hong Kong since 1997 on July 23.

Asked whether he was concerned about United not filling the stadium, Charlton quipped: 'But Brazil are not as big as Manchester United, are they?'

United club director Charlton added: 'Hey, now c'mon! You get exciting football from them [Brazil]. I can't see why the stadium wasn't full if they were playing with all these great players.

'Maybe it was because it was not competitive enough and the fans saw it as an easy match and thought it would be a bit boring.'

Charlton wanted to remind people that United have the strongest fan base in Asia - and that he was convinced this would ensure the fans poured into Hong Kong Stadium like they always have.

'I would be very surprised if the fans don't turn out to see us play. Our players are exceptional and they will get better,' said Charlton, whose 199 league goals for United is still a club record.

'Our fans are very loyal and that's why we feel that by coming over, we are giving something to them. To see the team play, it's the only thing.

'I think Manchester United fans stay Manchester United fans. They don't change to another team half way through the season.'

Charlton, in town yesterday to help promote the match, promised local fans they would see all the United stars in action this summer - barring injury.

A member of England's 1966 World Cup-winning side, Charlton said rivals Chelsea deserved to be leading the English Premiership - but he promised United would be back on top again.

'Chelsea have played well and brought in a lot of players and spent a lot of money on players,' he said. 'If Chelsea win the championship, you hold your hands up and say, 'well, fair enough', but our plans are all long term.

'We won't cry over not winning the championship or not winning the Champions League. They are really difficult to win anyway because you get the best teams in the world.

'What would Real Madrid be saying if they haven't won anything this season either?

'Chelsea have broken the mould of Arsenal and Manchester United and it has made it more exciting and different for the fans. But that's only for one year. Next year; we'll be looking to put it right again.'

Tickets for United's game in Hong Kong will be priced at $1,200, $980, $780, $480 and $380, with concessions at $180. Details of ticket sales will be announced later.