By Nathan Thomas.
Gillette Stadium, Boston, 13/07/2011 (US Time), Att. 51,523
Manchester United got their 2011/12 pre-season campaign off to the best possible start with a tough, but in the end comprehensive win of the New England Revolution. Second half substitute Michael Owen began the scoring just after the break and that was swiftly followed by another scored by young Italian Federico Macheda. Macheda then doubled his tally for the evening but not before the Revolution had pulled a goal back in fortuitous circumstances through Kenny Mansally; it was then left to Ji-Sung Park to secure victory with United’s fourth.
Pre-season is usually followed by the old adage that it is fitness first, results second but after Sir Alex Ferguson’s frank admission on Tuesday that nothing less than victory would be tolerated the Reds came out of the traps with a sense of vigour that conveyed the manager’s views. United made a bright start and new boy Ashley Young saw plenty of the ball on the left flank and linked well with left back Fabio, Wayne Rooney who started up front with Dimitar Berbatov dropped deep effectively, just as in last season and cause confusion amongst the New England back four. Rooney’s obvious ability ‘in the hole’ behind the main forward is something Ferguson is seemingly keen to utilise again this year which begs the question how potential signing Wesley Sneijder will fit into to a Man United XI, however that is for another day.
Michael Carrick and Anderson imposed themselves on the game early on and constantly fed Ashley Young whose cross for Rooney almost went the distance but was hoofed out for a corner from a slightly nervy looking New England defence who took the option of putting ten men behind the ball when on the back foot. Despite early pressure from United the first chance of real note came to the Revolution, with right back Rafael out of position Jonny Evans was dragged out wide however he could not prevent a cross coming in but fortunately Shalrie Joseph, who momentarily evaded the attentions of United Captain Vidic could not test Anders Lindegaard in the United goal.
With game seemingly bubbling into life a bizarre stoppage then stopped proceedings. The referee called a halt to the play because of a popped ball, a new ball was subsequently thrown in to play, however that was also popped and then a strange few minutes ensued with everybody looking at each other to find a pumped ball! Once the referee finally got his hands on a football the game had lost its ebb and flow and the stoppage served to help New England over United who, despite a wealth of possession lacked potency in the final third. There were chances though and were created largely from the flanks, the Da Silva twins linked very well with their respective wing men, Nani and Young, and created a headed opportunity for Wayne Rooney who, straining every sinew, could only direct his header over. Berbatov also headed wide when latching on to what first appeared to be an errant, but what actually turned out to be a fantastic ball from Ashley Young, Wayne Rooney even attempted a Manchester City esc overhead kick which the crowd loved, unfortunately Wayne could not connect despite the technique being almost spot on the ball just skimmed his foot. United’s best chance of the half came just before the whistle, Rooney again dropping deep to influence the play so effectively played a cutting pass to Fabio on the left flank who stole in ahead of his marker. Getting to the by-line the young Brazilian got his head up and picked out the un-marked Berbatov who seemed to have the easy task of tapping home the first goal, not so. The Bulgarian’s shot was well saved by New England Goalkeeper Matt Reis, in real time it looked like a great save and credit must go to the keeper for making himself large and recovering his position quickly however Berbatov should have perhaps opened his body and shot away from the keeper, giving him no chance whatsoever.
The second half began with a raft of New England substitutions however only three for United. Michael Owen, Federico Macheda and Rio Ferdinand came on to replace Rooney, Berbatov and the largely untroubled Nemanja Vidic. The changes proved instant dividends for the team in Red as United seized the initiative early on in search of the goal to delight the fifty thousand spectators who were largely supporting United. Michael Carrick received the ball from Young and then played an arrowed through ball so synonymous with the midfielder which picked out Michael Owen brilliantly, one on one with the keeper there was only going to be one outcome as the Englishman calmly slid the ball past substitute keeper Bobby Shuttleworth from the tightest of angles. The American crowd lapped up the early second half goal and Owen once again proved his worth to United after signing a new one year deal this summer. Strikers of his ability do not come around to often and providing he can stay fit could be a valuable asset in United’s quest for a twentieth league title.
The goal provided a shift in momentum, largely on the part of the team from New England. Struggling in their domestic league with only three wins from eighteen the chances of a shock result over the English Champions now seemed to be slipping away and the proverbial nail in the coffin was added three minutes after Owen’s first. Carrick again found himself in an unusually advanced position and was two on one with Macheda in support, drawing the defender in he slipped a ball to Macheda who in turn slipped one past the keeper, two nil and game over, maybe not.
Despite being two down credit must be given to the Revolution who continued to plug away and in the fifty-fourth minute won a disputable foul on the edge of the United area. Despite protests from the men in Red the referee awarded the US outfit a chance from an extremely presentable position. Goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard barked orders at his defence as he expected to face his first stern test but was powerless to prevent the Revolution bringing the scores back to 2-1 when a dribble of a free kick was deflected in off Kenny Mansally and totally wrong footed the Dane. Could there be a comeback on the cards, well if it was brewing Federico Macheda ensured it didn’t boil. Following a United corner the Italian latched on to a cross from Rafael which evaded everyone, taking lightning quick touch Macheda then drilled it in for number three, a goal of the very highest calibre and will have done Macheda’s confidence a world of good after a difficult year so far spent on loan at Italian strugglers Sampdoria.
After the third United began to give other players much needed minutes on the clock, Ryan Giggs and Gabriel Obertan came on to replace impressive debutant Ashley Young and Nani and not long after Ji-Sung Park and Mame-Biram Diouf completed the raft of substitutions by replacing Carrick and Anderson. Out of the substitutions Park in particular looked very lively, operating from a central role which could become a regular berth for him this year with the acquisition of another winger in the form of Young. The Korean buzzed around with typical energy and linked up well with veteran Ryan Giggs who also operated centrally with Mame Diouf taking up an unfamiliar role on the right side. It was not Diouf however but Obertan who joined fellow substitutes Giggs and Park in creating the fourth and by far and away the best goal of the evening. Obertan, who will be looking to replicate the form he showed in last season’s US Tour received the ball out wide and proceeded to bamboozle his marker with a series of step overs before playing a simple ball into the path of the onrushing Park. The Korean then played a lovely first time one two with Giggs and then shimmied before chipping the New England Goalkeeper, the crowd were on their feet to applaud such mastery and capped a fine display from the men in Red.
United Team: Lindegaard, Rafael, Vidic (Ferdinand 45), Evans, Fabio, Nani (Obertan 66), Carrick (Park 71), Anderson (Diouf 71), Young (Giggs 66), Berbatov (Owen 45), Rooney (Macheda 45)
Goals: Owen 50, Macheda 53 & 59, Park 79
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