Manchester United's preseason tour kicks off on Wednesday, July 18 in Durban, South Africa against AmaZulu FC as the Red Devils try to rebound from a disappointing season that failed to produce any trophies.
The club lost a dramatic English Premier League title race to their city rivals when Manchester City clinched a 3-2 win in the dying minutes against QPR. Manchester United then suffered an early exit from the Champions League in the group stages and were eliminated from the Europa League by eventual finalists Athletic Bilbao. Their domestic cup run also came up empty.
The Red Devils acquired Shinji Kagawa from Borussia Dortmund and expect the Japanese international midfielder to contribute right away in their preseason campaign. He joins a young traveling squad void of star players such as Wayne Rooney, Patrice Evra, Tom Cleverley, Ryan Giggs, Vidic, David de Gea, Rafael, Nani, Phil Jones and Danny Welbeck.
Youngsters Davide Petrucci, Jesse Lingard and Ryan Tunnicliffe will give Manchester United fans a look into the club's future. Fan favorites Antonio Valencia and Javier Hernandez will also make the trip.
Receiving a debut for Manchester United will be promising for striker Nick Powell and England under-18 left-back Tyler Blackett. The Red Devils are short of left-back options, which is why they are trying to sign Everton and England star Leighton Baines.
The Manchester United squad isn't completely void of star power. High-profile veterans Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick and Dimitar Berbatov all appear on the traveling roster.
Rio Ferdinand, who was omitted from England's European Championship squad in the wake of his continuing feud with Chelsea captain John Terry, was named team captain for the trip to South Africa. He takes over for regular skipper Nemanja Vidic who is out with an injury.
Prediction: How many goals will Manchester United win by against AmaZulu?
Nick Said of Sport Live reports that Ferdinand expects the competition in South Africa to be tough, not just from their opponents, but within the United squad as well as they jostle to catch the eye of manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
"Each and every player wants to go out there and prove to the manager that they deserve to have a starting position in the team and all players believe that if you do well in preseason, then the manager will give you an opportunity," Ferdinand said.
Liberia international Dulee Johnson signed a two-year deal with Manchester United's opponent, AmaZulu of the South African Premier Soccer League (PSL).
The former AIK star joined as a free agent after leaving relegated Dutch Eredivisie side De Graafschap. He becomes the third signing for Usuthu this preseason along with Prince Hlela and Sifiso Vilakazi. The midfielder won the Swedish Allsvenskan with AIK, the Israel Toto Cup with Maccabi Tel Aviv and later played with Greek side Panetolikos before moving to The Netherlands.
Where: Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban, South Africa
When: Wednesday, July 18, 2 p.m. EST
Live Stream: FOX Soccer and FOX Deportes
This marks Manchester United's fourth trip to South Africa. All previous games there have been highly competitive.
The Manchester United Football Club South Africa (MUFCSA) began in 1990 and generates a huge fan following for the parent club among South Africans.
AmaZulu is a South African football club based in the city of Durban. According to Goal.com, the club was formed in 1932 by Zulu migrant workers and was originally known as Zulu Royals. The club's nickname, Usuthu, is a Zulu war cry.
AmaZulu play in the Absa Premiership League, where they finished in seventh place last season. The club's only league championship came in 1972. They are coached by Sweden's Roger Palmgren.
The match in Durban will be the first of the two games of the Soccer Challenge highlighting Mandela Day, during which people are expected to give 67 minutes of their time to help change the world for the better.
Manchester United will face Ajax Cape Town three days later on July 21.
The Moses Mabhida stadium served as one of the host stadiums for the 2010 FIFA World Cup and has a capacity of 54,000.
Manchester United's preseason tour features a total of six matches in five countries until August 11.
Manchester United Traveling Squad (via the club's official website)
Lindegaard, Amos, Johnstone, Ferdinand, Veseli, Vermijl, Wootton, Blackett, Valencia, Anderson, Carrick, Scholes, Powell, Kagawa, Bebe, Tunnicliffe, Lingard, Brady, Petrucci; Berbatov, Chicharito, Macheda.