United taking Amazulu game seriously

Premier League

Durban – Manchester United coach Alex Ferguson insists his team will not be taking the first match of their pre-season tour to South Africa lightly ahead of their meeting with AmaZulu in Durban on Wednesday.

The 19-time English champions arrived in the country on Monday night on the first stop of a world tour, which also includes a visit to China and three European countries.

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NORWICH, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 26: Ryan Giggs of Manchester United celebrates his last minute goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Norwich City and Manchester United at Carrow Road on February 26, 2012 in Norwich, England. (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)

They are without big names Wayne Rooney, Patrice Evra and Nani, all of whom did duty at the recent European Championships and have been left home to recuperate.

United are looking to put behind them a forgettable 12 months in which they failed to win a major trophy, an unusual occurrence in recent seasons.

“We won’t be treating this lightly, we never do,” Ferguson told reporters on Tuesday.

“It’s an important start to a season after the disappointment of last year.

“Obviously we want to recover that title - that’s our priority number one this year, winning that title back.”

Ferguson said he hoped for a good game against AmaZulu and said his players had been training for 10 days and were ready.

“They need a game now and hopefully it will be one we’re all going to enjoy.”

Ferguson urged South African supporters not to be too despondent over the absence of some of their key men, including Ryan Giggs.

The legendary Welshman is preparing with the British Olympic football team for the Games that begin later in July.

“I know there’ll be disappointment from many fans because we don’t see Rooney, (Ashley) Young, (Phil) Jones and a few other who at the European Championships which is naturally difficult to bring them after such a difficult competition.

“But the fans here should know that we still have some quality players here like Rio (Ferdinand), Michael Carrick, (Antonio) Valencia, Chicharito, our new signings (Shinji) Kagawa and (Nick) Powell.

“There’s also an opportunity to see some young potential at the football club, like we’ve brought through over the years.

“You never which of them will go on to achieve great things.”

Ferguson, whose team also play Ajax Cape Town on the tour, confirmed Ferdinand, Carrick, Scholes, Valencia and Chicharito will all start, along with new Japanese recruit Kagawa.

AmaZulu will use Wednesday's match to mark the official start of their 80th anniversary festivities.

The game will also form part of the celebration of former President Nelson Mandela's 94th birthday.

AmaZulu's coach Roger Palmgren said he looked forward to playing a team so rich in history and pedigree.

“It’s a great honour to play against a team like that,” Palmgren said.

“It’s not just a big team from Europe, but one of the best in the world.

“Even though they haven’t brought all their so-called star players, I think they have an enormously strong team.”

New signings midfielder Dulee Johnson, striker Sifiso Vilakazi and defender Prince Hlela are all expected to play for the home team. – Sapa

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