Manchester United continued their successful tour of the United States with a 4-0 victory over the MLS All Stars, a side which included past Premier League stars David Beckham and Thierry Henry. The match actually provided United’s most stern challenge yet, despite the flattering scoreline, particularly in the first half where Beckham found himself influential in the All Stars’ midfield, with the United legend joking that Sir Alex Ferguson had told him he wanted to sign him after his display. The most difficult of the matches will likely be the friendly against Champion’s League winners Barcelona, but Thursday’s game will have been considered a useful step up in making all involved work for their victory. Although perhaps fortuitous to be up by 2 goals at half time, fans will have been happy with the quality of the play and the goals themselves. And from that here are five things one may take away from the game.
1) Berbatov ran the show
With all the speculation regarding his future at the club after the disappointment at the Champion’s League final, fans of the Bulgarian striker will have been glad to hear his positive attitude in wanting to stay and fight to prove his worth to Ferguson. It was a response that was commendable to say the least, in stark contrast to Ruud Van Nistelrooy who found himself in a similar situation a few years prior, and Berbatov set his stall out against the All Stars, instrumental in the build up to Anderson’s opening goal as well as finding himself on the scoresheet for United’s third. The opening goal in particular will have been of the beautiful football that Berbatov is so open about wanting to play, playing a slick one-two with Wayne Rooney who then switched and fed the ball to Anderson who surged into the box for an easy finish. Although his own goal was perhaps not scored in the manner intended, with a chip over the goalkeeper rebounding off the bar for him to chest it and smash it home before he could be challenged, it was still a goal that ended up looking slick and he came off to a hearty handshake from Ferguson commending him for his superb efforts. With Hernandez suffering a concussion in training, Ferguson will have been pleased to see his other options firing as they have done during the tour.
2) Ashley Young is settling in well
Ashley Young continued his impressive pre-season with another effective performance, helping to put the game beyond doubt when before half time he slipped the ball through to Park Ji-Sung out on the left, who then went to put a strong finish into the right corner from an awkward angle to give United a 2 goal lead going in at half time. The abundance of wingers at the club has raised questions over who will be first choices when the season truly kicks off in August, but one cannot argue with the strength in depth that Ferguson has gained on the wings for the coming season, hopefully being able to call on quality when and as needed.
3) Will Anderson be given the chance to fill the void?
With Paul Scholes retiring there has been much deba the about potential successors that has linked United with a host of playmaking talent the world over, the strongest of which regarded Wesley Sneijder of Inter Milan. With contradictory statements about whether or not Ferguson is in the market for such a player, with inflated prices and lack of value perhaps proving a stumbling block, some have wondered who within the squad could take up this role themselves. Anderson has had mixed fortunes with regards to his place in the side since joining from Porto. However, he is keen to prove he could be the man to take up the reins and it could well be that he gets his chance for an extended time to prove his worth as a possible alternative and make a place his own within the line up. The build up to his goal was impressive, and the fact he found himself on the scoresheet will hopefully give him the confidence to push on and find himself a stronger attacking influence in United’s midfield in future.
4) Lindegaard is making the most of his opportunities
The high profile signing of David De Gea has clearly been met with a positive attitude by Anders Lindegaard, eager to challenge for United’s number one spot, which by Ferguson’s own admission is still an open door despite the large investment in the young Spaniard ‘keeper. It has been clear to see that he has not wasted the chances he has had to impress either, providing solid performances when called upon during the tour and making impressive saves, this time saving with his fingertips from Beckham’s 30 yard effort. Although it is safe to assume that De Gea is likely to start the season between the posts, he should be wary there are other candidates should he slip up.
5) How will United approach Barcelona?
After the one sided affair that was the Champion’s League final, fans will be interested to see how Ferguson will line up his side in their encounter with Pep Guardiola’s side next. Admittedly, there will be a limited amount that analysts could draw from this, especially as this is under less significant circumstances, but one still cannot deny the challenge that they will bring forth. Regardless, a record of 18 goals scored and 2 conceded so far on tour will make for encouraging reading for the coaching staff and one hopes that this trip has provided a useful preparation for the upcoming season.