On tour with United: No weapons in the city but Red Devils face Ajax Cape Town threat
19:08 GMT, 20 July 2012
After the jingoistic Zulu references kindly provided by the tour organisers gave United’s opening pre-season friendly in Durban a less-than-friendly feel, at least Sir Alex Ferguson and his players can relax about their safety here.
As they flew in from Natal on Friday morning, the front page of the Cape Times reassured them that no risks are being taken in Saturday’s second game against Ajax Cape Town.
It read: ‘The city has barred firearms, ammunition, knives, sharp objects, hazardous chemicals, fireworks and narcotics.’ Nice to know.
Welcome party: Man United players were enthusiastically greeted in Cape Town
This did not deter an Ajax supporters’ club spokesman from urging his fellow members to wage war against their Premier League visitors.
‘We will paint the city red and white, and support our team like never before,’ he was quoted as saying in the same article. ‘We will kill the Red Devils!’
United won’t be unduly concerned after getting close to some genuinely dangerous wildlife on tour.
While Sir Alex Ferguson chose a more sedate way to spend Thursday’s day off by teaming up with club secretary John Alexander in a game of golf against Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick at the Zimbali Country Club (the result is unknown but a beaming Ferguson was later seen heading for the clubhouse afterwards), the rest of the players headed for PheZulu Safari Park where Anderson was photographed kissing a giant boa constrictor called Fluffy.
It also emerged that some of the club’s staff – though not any players – took the opportunity to bungee jump from the giant arch towering over the Moses Mabhida Stadium where United opened their tour with a 1-0 win over AmaZulu FC on Wednesday night.
Hiss: United players with a huge snake named 'fluffy'
Another 2010 World Cup venue, the 55,000 Cape Town Stadium, will be sold out for Saturday’s second game against the local team Ajax although the weather conditions will be very different to United’s idyllic final day in Durban. Strong winds and driving rain greeted their arrival in the Western Cape and more showers are forecast for Saturday.
At least the welcome was warm.
‘Just landed in Cape Town,’ tweeted Rio Ferdinand. ‘What a welcome they just gave us!! Was soooo loud, crazy! Man Utd are huge out here! #Worldwide
The controversy over his ‘choc ice’ tweet about Ashley Cole has still not died down, but Rio Ferdinand has landed himself in more trouble after joking on Twitter about killing a lion on safari in South Africa.
Ferdinand posted a picture of himself holding a spear and shield alongside a Zulu warrior during United’s trip to PheZulu Safari Park on Thursday, and wrote: ‘Me + my Zulu friend out in the bush just before we hunted and killed a Lion + a Wilder beast!!’
Even though the park has no lions or wildebeest, some followers took him seriously. One wrote back: ‘Why did Rio Ferdinand have to kill a Lion while here in SA He could have spent the money on CONSERVATION!!!’
Ferdinand was forced to clarify his comments on Friday when he tweeted: ‘had an amazing time in Durban – safari was unbelievable and for those concerned I didn’t hunt any lions… can some of u please lighten up!’
Sir Alex Ferguson told reporters on tour this week that he is does not understand Ferdinand tweeting but cannot stop the defender from doing it as long as he doesn’t mention the club. The latest episode is unlikely to change the manager’s mind.
In position: Rio Ferdinand (behind the driver) at the front of the jeep
There has been confusion and consternation surrounding what colour kit Manchester United will wear against Ajax Cape Town on Saturday.
United launched their new white Nike away strip amid quite a fanfare after arriving in the Western Cape on Friday, the day after Ajax proudly unveiled their new adidas home and away kits for next season.
However, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side have still chosen to wear their gingham red home kit for the second time on tour, forcing their disgruntled hosts – who play in the same red and white colours as the famous Dutch club that gave them their name – to wear blue in in front of a capacity crowd who have bought up the 55,000 tickets in the space of 10 days.
‘We’ve never played in blue at home before,’ revealed one club official. ‘It’s a contractual thing. Manchester United think they’re bigger than the rest of the world.’
Fortunately for Ajax, their blue kit is also brand new, enabling an adidas spokesman to make the best out of a bad situation. ‘Ajax will appear in their new kit for the first time during their friendly against Manchester United,’ confirmed an adidas spokesman. ‘We couldn’t have asked for a better launching pad.’
Apparently United must have a white shirt every season, on the orders of Ferguson, although the latest design will now not be worn until they play Barcelona in a showcase friendly in Gothenburg on August 8.
It was unveiled in an extravagant ceremony at Cape Town’s Castle of Good Hope which, built in 1666, is supposedly South Africa’s oldest building and now an army barracks.
Rio Ferdinand looked slightly bewildered as he led Antonio Valencia and Federico Macheda into a marquee in the castle grounds, accompanied by a military band and the now familiar sight of United’s imposing South African security team dressed in black suits.
Fix up, look sharp: Man United's new away kit
Strangely, United’s players have kept their expensive watches on UK time since they have been here, even though South Africa is only one hour ahead.
We are assured that this is purely a practical move to avoid confusion among the squad and not a scientific ploy to keep their body clocks in sync with home.
‘I’m not sure what we’re going to do in China,’ admitted one official as United prepare for the seven-hour time difference in Shanghai.