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Dec 14, 2012

Man United to play A-League all-stars

Manchester United great Dwight Yorke expects the A-League's best to struggle when they face the full-strength English Premier League giants at ANZ Stadium next year.

But the former Sydney FC and United star believes Australia's players will benefit greatly from the "eye-opening" experience of taking on one of the best sides on the planet.

The NSW government and Football Federation Australia confirmed on Monday the Red Devils would return to Australia for the first time in 14 years for a one-off exhibition match on July 20.

NSW premier Barry O'Farrell trumpeted the coup as a win for his state over Victoria and Queensland and claimed an approximate $3 million investment would provide an economic boost of around $16 million.

United will spend six nights in Sydney and have promised to bring their full squad, with superstars including Wayne Rooney, Robin Van Persie, Rio Ferdinand and Nani - as well as coach Sir Alex Ferguson - among those expected to feature in front of a sell-out crowd.

The club won't be coming to Australia for a holiday, with one official vowing they will be "here to win" and train intensively as part of the 2013/14 Premier League build-up.

And Yorke, who came to Australia with United for their last visit in 1999, predicted an A-League All Stars team - to be pre-selected by fans - would be in for a tough but memorable night.

"I'm going to be honest, it's not going to be easy for the A-League guys," said Yorke, who played 95 times for United before steering Sydney FC to the inaugural A-League title in 2005/06.

"They're going to find it extremely difficult but I'm sure it's a great experience for some of these guys who may never have the opportunity to play against world class players."

Yorke said the A-League players would be struck by the 19-time league champions' aura.

"The way they present themselves and carry themselves, the way everything is set up .. it's going to be a real eye opener for these guys when they see that," Yorke said.

"It's everything about United, and hopefully these guys will experience something they won't be too intimidated by and just go out and enjoy the occasion."

Yorke did not rule out coaching the A-League side if approached but FFA chief executive David Gallop said details on how a coach would be selected were yet to be finalised, with Ange Postecoglou and Graham Arnold among other possibilities.

Fans will get to vote on who should be in the side in a pre-selection process similar to that introduced by Gallop in his time as NRL chief executive.

Rugby league's Indigenous All Stars fixture has been a big success and Gallop hoped the A-League version would also become an annual event.

"It's becoming something that's really exciting across the world in sporting comps and we want to be a part of that," Gallop said.

Several A-League players, including Brett Emerton and Archie Thompson, are likely to be unavailable for the fixture as it clashes with the Socceroos' East Asian Cup campaign in South Korea.

The match is expected to generate an even greater level of hype than the 2007 visit of Beckham's LA Galaxy, who played Sydney FC in front of more than 80,000 fans at ANZ Stadium.

Tickets are on sale from Tuesday and range from $A49.50 to $A189.

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