Man U Part of Exciting Summer for Union

Philadelphia Union CEO & Operating Partner Nick Sakiewicz presented Manchester United legend Denis Irwin with a Union jersey among other gifts at a press conference yesterday to promote a match between the two clubs scheduled for July 21.

The legendary English club will return the favor by presenting the Union with a gargantuan challenge.

There will be no gifts exchanged on the field when these two clubs face each other at Lincoln Financial Field. The match is the second leg of United’s 2010 North American Tour, which also includes stops in Toronto, Kansas City and Houston.

The tour begins on July 16 with Manchester United battling Celtic F.C. in Toronto.

When the tour settles in Philadelphia, it will be all handshakes and smiles off the field, but all business on the field.

“You step your game up,” Sakiewicz said. “I’ve played in games like this, friendly games against big competition, and I had some of my best games because you’re more focused. You want to show you can stand on the same field.”

Irwin, a former Irish National Team defender, played 12 seasons for Manchester United, helping the team win several championships in the 1990s and early 2000s. A free kick and penalty kick specialist, he earned 56 caps for the Republic of Ireland.

Forget the term exhibition.

When it’s time to play, it’s time to win.

“Whenever you pull on a Manchester United shirt, you go out there to win,” Irwin said. “They’ll have two weeks of training before they play here. They’ll have one game under their belt. They won’t be full-throttle. They’ll be here to win.”

Man U last played in Philadelphia against FC Barcelona at Lincoln Financial Field in ’03.

This time, the Red Devils will be playing the hometown club in Major League Soccer. My how things have changed around here.

“I think it’ll be a close game,” Irwin said. “I’ve spoken to a couple of our players and they’re excited about playing here. I know that the Union has some very talented players, a great (manager) and it’s a strong organization. I’m delighted to see Manchester United play in this exhibition in Philadelphia.”

Founded in 1878, United won its third consecutive Barclays Premier League Championship in ’09, the 18th overall league title. They were the first English club to win the European Cup in ’68 and has since won the European Champions League two additional times. The Red Devils were also crowned the FIFA Club World Cup Champions in ’08.

The Union moved their match at Colorado originally scheduled for July 21 to Sept. 29. That schedule change allowed the club to add a match against world football powerhouse.

In the end, it will be completely worth it with a game of this magnitude.

Sakiewicz said more than 25,000 tickets have already been sold.

“It’s really exciting to be able to play a club like Man U in our inaugural season,” Sakiewicz said. “We could not be more thrilled about the opportunity. We’re delighted.”

After the excitement of the opener of PPL Park on June 27, this match against the Red Devils is yet another reason to be stoked in this inaugural season. And don’t forget about the Union's match against Celtic F.C. at PPL Park just a week before on July 14. 

What a summer it’s going to be.