The new additions to the AmaZulu squad couldn’t have asked for bigger opponents than Manchester United to show their value to the club.
Liberian international midfielder Dulee Johnson was the biggest name officially unveiled by the Durban club yesterday. Johnson, along with striker Sifiso Vilakazi and defender Prince Hlela, will make his debut in Usuthu’s new kit against the English travellers at Moses Mabhida Stadium tomorrow night.
“This is one of the games that will prepare us for the league, and there’s nothing particular we are doing,” said coach Roger Palmgren. “But it’s a great honour to play one of the biggest teams in the world. At this time of the season these clubs play a lot of their younger players, and those guys run a lot. Hopefully our players can learn something.
“During our pre-season one of the toughest matches will be against Manchester United. It will be a good test to see how the new players perform. I’m not sure of his level of fitness, but Dulee will get at least 30 minutes against Manchester. My philosophy is to play the first team as much as possible.”
The MTN Football Invitational forms part of AmaZulu’s 80th anniversary celebrations, and they aim to kick it off on a positive note against United. While management hope for a top-four finish and silverware in at least one knock-out competition, Palmgren said his target was simply to improve on last season’s seventh place in the Absa Premiership.
Johnson, 28, is set to fill the central midfield void created by the sale of Thamsanqa Sangweni to Mamelodi Sundowns. The Liberian is a league winner in Sweden, and comes to the PSL following spells in Greece, Israel and most recently the Netherlands where he turned out for De Graafschap. He signed a two-year contract, along with Vilakazi and Hlela, who arrived from Bidvest Wits and Bloemfontein Celtic respectively.
All going well, Usuthu could add more international firepower to their attack if Malawian striker Essau Kanyenda also signs. The forward was linked to former club Jomo Cosmos and Moroka Swallows last season before he took up a short contract in Denmark. He started training with AmaZulu last week.
United arrived in SA last night. They will train at the match venue tonight and conclude their trip with another outing, against Ajax Cape Town, in the Mother City on Saturday (3pm).
In other local transfer developments, Lamontville Golden Arrows added more international flavour in the form of Malian midfielder Souleymane Keita. The 26-year-old defensive midfielder signed a two-year contract after last playing for Sivasspor in Turkey, under current Arrows coach Muhsin Ertugral.
Arrows are strengthening in the middle of the park following the departures of Elrio van Heerden and Clifford Ngobeni. In their places Ertugral roped in Zambian international Justine Zulu and Keita.
Arrows are camping in Gauteng. They expect their two recent Latvian signings, goalkeeper Pavels Steinbors and defender Ritus Krjauklis, to arrive in the country this week.