Former Manchester United striker Andy Cole has highlighted the importance of the club's Asian fanbase to the future growth of the 19-time title winners.

The Red Devils can boast to be the most poplar British club in the Far East and have seen their support increase dramatically over the past few decades.

United will travel to China this summer as part of their pre-season preparations to allow their loyal fans in Asia to catch a glimpse of the club's stars, with a match against Shanghai Shenhua scheduled to take place on July 25.

Cole, meanwhile, has already visited fans in Asia as part of his role as a club ambassador, and says United owe it to the fervent supporters in China to pay a visit before the start of the new season.

“I’ve been fortunate to visit the Far East quite a lot in the last 12 months and the appetite for United is getting bigger and bigger,” Cole told ManUtd.com. “It’s phenomenal and I’ve often had to pinch myself and just think, ‘Wow’.

“The sad thing is that the vast majority of all those fans will never make it to Old Trafford to see United play, which is why it’s so important we take the team to them on these pre-season tours.

“The fans in China are great. You can have proper football discussions with them. They understand the game and they keep up-to-date with absolutely everything that’s going on at Old Trafford. You have to take your hat off to them for that.

“Then you have to consider the dedication that’s involved in waking up at ridiculous hours of the night to watch the team. I was in China at one point last season and I had to get up at 4am to see United play.

"That was hard work, yet plenty of people do that every week and then go to work or school afterwards.”

Cole scored 121 goals in 275 appearances for United during seven years with the club and was appointed a club ambassador in 2011, working alongside fellow Old Trafford legends Sir Bobby Charlton, Bryan Robson and Gary Neville.

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