Manchester rivalry in Dubai

Tom Bushell looks at United v City on these shores

Al Jazira: an early win against Al Ain
Al Jazira: an early win against Al Ain
Ronny Johnsen: pushing into the UAE
Ronny Johnsen: pushing into the UAE

We’re not short of sporting superstars in Dubai. Over the past ten days or so we’ve hosted rugby legends, Olympic gold medalists in the swimming pool, and former Manchester United defender Ronny Johnsen. Can I get away with calling him a ‘sporting superstar’? Well, to United fans he is. He played a huge part in the 1999 treble-winning season.

I spoke to the Norwegian during his visit to open the new Manchester United Soccer School in Dubai. It’s interesting to see the red half of Manchester try to grow their presence in the UAE. Let’s not forget that the blue half, Manchester City, are owned by Abu Dhabi.

Ronny, now an ambassador for United, made no secret of the fact that the team are playing catch-up to City in the UAE, but now that they have schools in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, they believe in this part of the world. Ronny told me Sir Alex Ferguson was the best coach he’d played under (until he played under Paul Nicholls, the soccer school coach) and that he could be tempted to try coaching in Dubai after seeing his fellow countryman and former United teammate Ole Gunner Solskjaer head into management. Watch this space.

This season’s UAE Pro-League is seemingly like the current season in Formula One – as unpredictable as you could wish for, with different winners every week. League champions Al Ain went into their first game feeling confident – they went one-nil up early on, only to lose to Al Ahli 6-3. Shocking. Then as we looked to Al Ahli to put in another strong performance, they lost to Al Jazira 2-0. If the Pro-League continues to entertain, with goals flying in and attendances staying above the 5,000 mark, it would be a crime for any Dubai-based football fan not to watch a few games.
Tom Bushell hosts Sport On 7 on City 7 TV (Mon 8pm) and is Arabian Radio Network’s head of sport.

And another thing…

Is golf ever out of our minds? No – especially not in Dubai. After the best ever Ryder Cup (for the Europeans, at least), we can begin to turn our attention to the DP World Tour Championship Dubai, which starts on Thursday November 22. It’s the conclusion of the Race to Dubai, and the top 60 players on the European Tour will compete. It means all of the European Ryder Cup team will be here, so it’s the perfect chance to say ‘well done’!

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