Lure of India excites United

Manchester United are considering offers to play a friendly game in India, with the English Premier League and European champions keen to tap into the growing demand for football on the sub-continent.

Sir Alex Ferguson and his United squad are currently preparing for the upcoming English season with a four-game tour of South Africa and Nigeria.

But with plans to return to Asia in July 2009, after a hugely successful four-stop tour of Tokyo, Seoul, Macau and Guangzhou 12 months ago, United chief executive David Gill has admitted that India could be the next destination for the club's globetrotting stars.

Gill said: "India is interesting. We have been approached to go there and we are looking at some soccer school opportunities there. I know Chelsea have done something and I think Barcelona have. We would not rule out going there."

Untapped market
Although India has no great history as an international football nation, the size of its population and the associated commercial potential has long seen it regarded as one of the great untapped markets for the sport.

In cricket, India has, for several years now, been the global financial powerhouse of the game - a position strengthened by the recent advent of the Indian Premier League (IPL), whose impact has also been noticed well beyond the sport's traditional confines.

"They (India) do have ambitions and they have a key goal to make it to the World Cup," said Gill. "Whether they can make it or not, I do not know, but it's a huge, huge country.

"Just look at the IPL. That has shown that it is a very wealthy country and it is definitely worth looking at. Other clubs will look at it and so will we."

Some commentators have suggested that interest in football in its established nations such as England may have reached saturation point, and that the room left for further global expansion is limited.

United may be one of world football's best-known 'brands', with a huge worldwide following, but Gill was adamant there were still fresh markets waiting to be conquered by the Old Trafford club. "The interest in football around the world is increasing," he said. "It is not saturated.

"We have worked on our global position for many years, but it would be wrong to think that we are impregnable. If we did that, then we would get knocked off our perch."