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Last Updated: Friday, 22 July, 2005, 13:50 GMT 14:50 UK
Ferguson backs tough Man Utd tour
Sir Alex Ferguson
Sir Alex Ferguson has defended Manchester United's Far East tour of Hong Kong, Japan and China.

United flew out to Hong Kong on 21 July and face four matches and a heavy schedule of commercial and media duties before returning on 31 July.

"The travel and conditions in Asia can make this trip quite a daunting prospect," Ferguson told the latest edition of United's official magazine.

"But their preparation will be spot on," added the United manager.

23 July Man Utd v Hong Kong National XI
26 July Man Utd v Beijing Hyundai
28 July Man Utd v Kashima Antlers
30 July Man Utd v Urawa Reds

He added: "They have completed a great deal of their pre-season work in Portugal and back at our training ground in Carrington before they embarked on the trip.

"And the four games we play in the Far East will add to their stamina and sharpness before the season starts."

The omens over the Old Trafford club's pre-season trip do not bode well as their last trip to the Far East was before the 2001/2002 season and saw them end the campaign trophyless.

A tour of the US West Coast prior to the 2003/2004 season yielded the FA Cup while a trip to the US East Coast the following year again ended without any silverware.

But, when United toured Europe in their build up for the 2002/2003 campaign, they ended up winning the Premiership.

I'm determined we're going to be more physically ready to hit the ground running at the start of next season
Sir Alex Ferguson

And Ferguson knows the importance of his side not suffering the slow start to the season which has blighted their title challenge in past seasons.

He said: "Over the years we have been slow starters but it's never really worried me.

"That's because we've always seemed to come back strongly in the second half.

"But I had to question that thinking because Chelsea turned last season into a sprint from the start to finish.

"So I'm determined we're going to be more physically ready to hit the ground running at the start of next season.

"We must be better prepared, not simply because we'll be involved in an early Champions League qualifier, but because we don't want to be playing catch up again in the Premiership."

United winger could miss the whole trip because he is in Portugal where his father has fallen ill.


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