KUALA LUMPUR, July 16 – Manchester United warm-up for another assault on the Premier League title with a tour of Asia this week, where Michael Owen is expected to make his debut.Sir Alex Ferguson’s men head for Kuala Lumpur Thursday on a trip that will see them play a Malaysian XI on Saturday before travelling to Jakarta to take on Indonesia on Monday.
They move to South Korea for a match against FC Seoul on July 24 then to Hangzhou in China two days later.
Despite banking 80 million pounds for selling Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid, Ferguson has restricted his summer buying spree to Owen, on a free transfer, Wigan’s Antonio Valencia and Bordeaux’s Gabriel Obertan.
All three are set to be showcased in a region where Premier League football has a huge following, with an estimated 50,000 fans alone due to watch the team train here on Friday.
For the club it is as much a business trip as pre-season preparations, with significant television revenues earned from Premier League games shown in Asia.
"Our fans in Asia generate money for the club, there are no two ways about it," said United chief executive David Gill, adding that their fanatical Asian support was like nowhere else.
"The reception United get in Asia is unlike anywhere else on earth. You can’t leave your hotel room without security because of the sheer number of fans waiting in all parts of the hotel."
For this reason, he said it was worth the long trip.
"It’s very important that we give our fans the ability to see the team live every so often," he said.
"The English game is very well followed across Asia, and we have phenomenal support out there, so I think it’s only fair and right that we can give something back to these fans."
As well as watching Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs and the rest, the fans will want to see Owen in a United shirt after his shock move from Newcastle.
After a sensational start to his career for both Liverpool and England, Owen’s form has been in gradual decline due to a succession of serious injuries in recent times.
But Ferguson has shown faith and Owen is keen to prove the doubters wrong.
"I feel like I belong at a top club and I am delighted to be here. I am hungry to do well and if this challenge doesn’t create a hunger and put a spring in your step and a smile on your face then nothing will," he said.
After their summer break and in Asia’s hot and humid conditions, United are likely to take it easy, although Ferguson insists they will put on a show.
"The players are really looking forward to our Asia tour. For some, the Club World Cup in Japan (last December) was the first time they had experienced the passion generated by the club in Asia and they enjoyed it immensely," he said.
"We know we will get terrific support in each of the locations and we will be going to put on a show for our millions of fans over there."