BANGKOK– Hundreds of cheering fans gave Manchester United a stirring welcome Thursday as the English champions jetted into Thailand at the start of a flurry of Asian tours by top European clubs.
Spectators were out in force as the superstar squad, wearing suits with trainers, arrived by chartered jet at Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport, where David Moyes performed a traditional Thai greeting
The players then boarded a huge bus emblazoned with the words “United in Thailand” and drove to their five-star downtown hotel, where they were welcomed by more fans holding banners and scarves.
Moyes and United great Ryan Giggs were also mobbed during a visit to Siriraj hospital, where they paid their respects and brought a big bunch of flowers for Thailand’s revered king and queen, who are both unwell.
England striker Wayne Rooney, at the centre of intense speculation about his future, walked with his head down and did not talk to media as he arrived with his team-mates.
“It’s crazy whenever we visit this part of the world,” defender Rio Ferdinand told the club’s website. “The reception we get in the Asian countries is something else entirely. I’ve never seen fanatics like them.
“They come to airports at mad times in the morning to greet us, they hang around our hotels… it’s great and makes us feel really welcome.”
Manchester United are the first to arrive in what will be a bumper Asian pre-season, with Chelsea also due in Bangkok this week and Barcelona, Manchester City and Liverpool among the other clubs headed to the region.
Moyes, taking over after Alex Ferguson’s 27-year, 38-trophy career at the club, will lead out the team for the first time against a Thai All-Star XI in Bangkok on Saturday.
Captain Nemanja Vidic stayed in Manchester because of back pain, but he may join the 19-man squad later on the tour of Thailand, Australia, Japan and Hong Kong, according to the club website.
Robin van Persie, David De Gea and Shinji Kagawa will also meet up with the team later but Javier Hernandez, rested after international duty, and injured trio Chris Smalling, Ashley Young and Nani are all missing.