SPORTS AGENDA: Manchester United kept safe by staggering 140 tour minders

The staggering scale of Manchester United’s operation for their pre-season tour of Australia and Asia had to be seen to be believed.

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An incredible 140 members of backroom staff took part at one stage or another — more than twice as many as some of their rivals — with a burly, 20-strong security team keeping a close eye on things.

Club officials have branded the tour a huge success both on and off the pitch. Given the numbers involved, you would hope so.

Manchester United's tour has been described by the club as a huge success this summer

Manchester United’s tour has been described by the club as a huge success this summer

Puma eye Reds deal 

Puma made a big statement when becoming the official kit suppliers to Manchester City, but there is a possibility they will now strike an alliance with the Premier League champions’ great rivals.

Liverpool, who finished a point behind City last season, have been in talks with all the big providers in recent months, including the German firm. 

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The Reds are seeking a record kit deal for when their £45million-a-year terms end in 2020 – with adidas, Nike and current suppliers New Balance holding the aces, given their ability to sell in all parts of the globe.

However, Puma are firmly on the scene and it would be interesting to see – if they were to strike a deal with Liverpool – how much the terms would be compared to City’s, whose 10-year terms are worth £650m.

Puma already have a huge deal in place with Manchester City and could sponsor Liverpool

Puma already have a huge deal in place with Manchester City and could sponsor Liverpool

Puma already have a huge deal in place with Manchester City and could sponsor Liverpool

City criticism does not go unnoticed 

A scathing piece by Chinese state media on Manchester City’s perceived unwillingness to engage with local media and fans did not go unnoticed by some of the other English clubs visiting the country. 

At one, the phrase ‘Manchester City’d’ was coined – as in ‘let’s not get Manchester City’d’ – when players were being briefed for interactive events.

Mourinho’s impact in Manchester continues 

Jose Mourinho was sacked by Manchester United in December but he has helped the club set a record this summer. 

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The club’s trip to Perth on a specially commissioned Boeing 777, arranged while Mourinho was still in charge, was the longest ever direct flight from Manchester Airport. Sports Agenda has been told that Mourinho, never a big fan of a pre-season tour, insisted that there be no stop on the 9,083-mile trip. 

Eager to please, United travelled on what has been described as the ‘world’s newest, largest and most spacious luxury jet’, with a stand-up bar, social lounge and team of butlers.

Jose Mourinho had insisted there was to be no stop-over on the pre-season tour this summer

Jose Mourinho had insisted there was to be no stop-over on the pre-season tour this summer

Jose Mourinho had insisted there was to be no stop-over on the pre-season tour this summer

Australia one down before a ball is bowled 

The Ashes do not start until Thursday – but we have already had the first Australia casualty. Jeremy Arnold, the squad’s media manager, has been banished from the tour. Arnold was due to go home following the World Cup before returning for the Ashes, but he will remain Down Under, much to his disappointment.

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The strange barefoot stroll around Edgbaston before the semi-final thrashing by England, which resulted in largely mocking coverage, may have something to do with the decision, although coach Justin Langer is known to be a big supporter. Arnold, regarded by some as a fan with a lanyard, will instead train a new staff member back in Australia.

He won few friends among the English or Australian packs, whose interview requests were met with the kind of resolute blocking that would have impressed Geoffrey Boycott.

In Arnold’s place, the vastly experienced Brian Murgatroyd, a Welshman who was England’s media liaison in the late 1990s, will take over for the first two Tests. Then poacher-turned-gamekeeper Malcolm Conn – News Corp’s former chief cricket writer who could not hide his emotions when Australia lost the 2005 Ashes – comes in for the final three clashes.

Australia coach Justin Langer (right) has lost an ally in media manager Jeremy Arnold (left)

Australia coach Justin Langer (right) has lost an ally in media manager Jeremy Arnold (left)

Australia coach Justin Langer (right) has lost an ally in media manager Jeremy Arnold (left)

Pochettino fits the bill 

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Mauricio Pochettino knows how to get journalists onside. 

The Tottenham manager returned to the team hotel after a meal at a top Shanghai restaurant last week to find a small group of reporters enjoying a bite to eat and a drink in the bar with a couple of members of the club’s media team.

When the group went to pay, they were told the impressive Pochettino, who joined them for a brief chat, had also looked after the bill.

2005 Ashes squad split documentary fees

The recent Channel 4 documentary about England’s 2005 Ashes victory won plenty of plaudits. 

In the 14 years since that never-to-be-forgotten series, some members of the victorious squad have done significantly better than others.

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It was interesting to note, then, that those who have done relatively well financially made the decision to pool their fees for the programme and distribute them to those who have not.

Cole gets green light to ditch needles 

Ashley Cole was all smiles as Chelsea’s tour ambassador, but it didn’t take him long to get the needle at his sprawling new home.

Cole, who is expected to retire as a player after his recent stint at Derby County, paid £2.4m for a luxury new-build close to the Blues’ Cobham training ground. However, he asked the local authority for permission to cut back pine and birch trees which were dropping needles on his front lawn.

The trees are protected by a preservation order, so Cole needed the green light from Mole Valley Council, which was given following no objections from neighbours in an area which boasts the likes of Sir Andy Murray and Sir Michael Caine as residents.

Ashley Cole has bought a luxury new £2.4m home near Chelsea's Cobham training ground

Ashley Cole has bought a luxury new £2.4m home near Chelsea's Cobham training ground

Ashley Cole has bought a luxury new £2.4m home near Chelsea’s Cobham training ground

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