English soccer giants Manchester United will play in Hong Kong next July, thanks to a HK$8 million handout from the government's Mega Events Fund.
Alex Ferguson's Red Devils will play Hong Kong champions Kitchee, who hosted fellow Premier League stars Arsenal in a successful, money-making sell-out at the Hong Kong Stadium this summer.
The government yesterday agreed to help towards the costs, saying the event would be expected to attract 40,000 spectators, a full house at the So Kon Po venue, including 8,000 tourists.
Ken Ng Kin, chairman of the Kitchee Foundation and team boss of First Division champions Kitchee, said they were in final negotiations with the Old Trafford club.
Manchester United last visited the city in 2005 when a crowd of 34,000 watched them beat the Hong Kong team 2-0.
It is believed the 19-time English champions will play three matches in Asia next summer, with the first stop in Malaysia, followed by Hong Kong before travelling to the mainland for the last match.
It is understood Kitchee had wanted to bring Manchester United to Hong Kong this summer, but a reported appearance fee of US$2 million scared off the domestic champions.
"Kitchee would need to charge HK$1,200 for the highest priced tickets, even if they wanted to break even for the match under such a staggering appearance fee," said a source.
"It would be a big risk and that's why the plan fell through.
"Now, with the support of the fund, they can lower the ticket prices to minimise the risk and that's why Manchester United can return."
Kitchee charged HK$880 for the most expensive ticket for their exhibition match against Arsenal in July and it was sold out within weeks. A similar pricing standard would probably be used for the Manchester United game.
Manchester United are second in the Premier League standings after seven matches, four points behind leaders Chelsea.
While boasting stars such as England's Wayne Rooney and Ashley Young, Robin van Persie of the Netherlands and Javier Hernandez of Mexico, summer signing Shinji Kagawa will be a big crowd-puller for the large Japanese community in Hong Kong.