Fire's Nyarko, Oduro typify Man U fandom

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- Chicago Fire midfielder Patrick Nyarko and forward Dominic Oduro exemplify the type of international draw that Manchester United has.

The Ghanaian duo has followed Man U's brand of soccer since they were kids. And like tens of millions of other Red Devils fans, they have appreciated everything from afar. That changes when the Fire face the defending Premier League champs at 4 p.m. Saturday at Soldier Field (ESPN2) as part of the World Football Challenge.

"I've never been to Old Trafford," Oduro said. "I've only seen them on TV, but I've enjoyed it a lot. For me to be on the field with them, this is just going to be a dream come true. It's an amazing feeling. ... Hopefully I can score a goal against them."

"My family was in tune with the Premiership, and I picked Man United," Nyarko said. "I couldn't tell you why to this day. At some point I just picked them. Most of it was just the sake of argument at school, so we would talk about the passion of foreign teams in the EPL. I watch every single game that I can. They're an amazing team."

More than 50,000 folks will pack Soldier Field, wearing their choice of red-clad apparel. Nyarko and Oduro immediately latched on to the Red Devils' history, making for one of the most unique experiences in their soccer careers. Both players have the utmost admiration for Man U.

"When I was a kid I fell in love with David Beckham, Andy Cole and all of those guys," Oduro said. "Dwight Yorke from Trinidad and Tobago. It was all about United and nobody else. They always play hard and have a winning mentality."

"It's amazing how this team gets up and plays tremendous second halves," Nyarko said. "It's a standard -- a winning team, winning in the present."

Both players immediately reference the Red Devils' 1999 Champions League comeback against Bayern Munich as their standout Man U moment, which is a popular choice considering the Red Devils leveled and then took the lead in second-half stoppage time.

"They scored two goals within like two minutes to win the Champions League, and I remember watching that and shouting with joy at the end," Oduro said.

"That was an unbelievable season," Nyarko said. "I watched every game during that season. They went through tribulations and still came out on top. Everyone wrote them off during the final."

Man U's head coach has been "Sir" Alex Ferguson ever since that match, knighted shortly after that victory. For about a quarter of a century, the Glasgow, Scotland, native has set a precedent for his managerial position with the Red Devils.

"He is hungry and no matter whether he's starting to rebuild with new blood, he gets the job done," Nyarko said. "The discipline he instills in the game works to perfection."

The Fire duo now takes to the pitch against Wayne Rooney, Portuguese winger Nani and a good portion of the Red Devils' main weapons. After Saturday's match, Oduro and Nyarko already are mulling over which player they would like to exchange jerseys with.

"I'd love to trade with Rooney, [Nemanja] Vidic -- I know somebody who wants Vidic's," Oduro said. "Nani, too. One of those three would be an honor, but I'm going for Vidic."

"Ryan Giggs -- all day, any day," Nyarko said. "I could watch him over and over again. He's one of my favorite players ever in the game. He's a legend and a tremendous player. I love him to death. Hopefully he will see this!"

Premiership trophy on display: Man U's Premiership trophy is going to be on display at the Aon Center's south courtyard, 200 E. Randolph St., from 9 to 11 a.m. Friday. An appearance by a former Red Devils legend is scheduled for 10:15 a.m. that day. Aon Corporation is Man U's official shirt sponsor.