Football, at last

‘At last,’ sang the late, great Etta James, ‘my lonely days are over.’ And while Manchester United supporters may not be pining for a love a long gone, the wait for the Reds to return this summer hardly sped by. Two months and five days of waiting, to be precise, since United lost the Premier League title to neighbours City in May. Sixty six days, for the fastidious, or 1584 hours, 95,040 minutes, or 5,702,400 seconds long. Either way, United’s players and supporters will be grateful when the Reds face AmaZulu FC in Durban this week.

Manchester United may have taken a scratch party on tour this summer, with so many regular faces resting, involved in the Olympics or injured, but a Sir Alex Ferguson side of sorts will take to the field on Wednesday night. Locals, and United’s regular support back in England, have waited through a summer of international football for this.

An the passion for all things United has been loudly voiced in South Africa over the 48 hours since Ferguson’s outfit landed in the country, with the sold-out Moses Mabhida Stadium awaiting what will be a highly unfamiliar United side.

Indeed, Ferguson has left more than a dozen players back in England, working the rigours of Euro 2012 out of their bodies, away with international associations, or still recovering from injury. Still, Ferguson hopes that the tour will add more than to the club’s bottom-line this summer, with his front line players gaining fitness, including new signing Shinji Kagawa, and a smattering of youngsters acquiring much-needed experience.

“The priority is to get the experienced players fit but young players will play in each game,” said Ferguson from United’s base in Durban.

“It’s likely that Kagawa will start with Chicharito. Michael Carrick, Rio Ferdinand and Paul Scholes will play. So too Anders Lindegaard, Lingard and Brady at left-back. Antonio Valencia will play.”

The Scot’s defence, in particular, will sport a highly unusual composition through six matches, across five countries, and three continents over the next month or so. Youngster Robbie Brady, for example, will start at left-back against AmaZulu – a position he has very rarely played through youth football. Meanwhile, 17-year-old left-back Tyler Blackett, one of the stars of last season’s Academy side, may also get a run out during the tour.

“Young Robbie Brady will be at left-back,” Ferguson added.

“He’s actually an outside-left but we believe there’s the possibility he’ll develop into a left-back. He was on loan last year at Hull City and did very well. Left-back is an area which we’re paying attention to. Patrice, in the last five years has played an average of 45-50 games. It’s phenomenal. I don’t know if anybody else has achieved that.

“Fabio went to QPR, which was so important for the boy because he has enormous ability, but he needs to play. Because Evra, touch wood, is never injured, the opportunities haven’t been there for the boy.

“That’s why we’re trying Robbie Brady at left-back. We also have Tyler Blackett here – he’s a big, strong boy, tall and quick going forward. But he’s only just turned 18. He has time on his side but he’s here for the experience and he may yet surprise us.”

Even with an unusual United side AmaZulu should offer the kind of  ‘soft’ start to pre-season rusty legs will welcome. Founded in 1932, as Zulu Royals, AmaZulu FC finished seventh in the South African Premiership last season – the club’s best finish in 15 years. It is a squad with few recognisable stars, although captain Tapuwa Kapini is a Zimbabwe international goalkeeper, while the side also boasts South African international Stanton Lewis, Malawi star Moses Chavula and Namibian Tangeni Shipahu.

“We expect a difficult game,” Sir Alex said ahead of the match, which takes place on Nelson Mandela’s 94th birthday.

“AmaZulu will be well motivated to play us on such a special day. The first thing we always try to do with the pre-season tour is to get everyone fit and try to avoid injuries. The priority is to get the players match-fit. That gives us a platform to say that, come the first day of the season, we are ready.”

“I don’t know how many substitutes will be allowed – we need to establish that – but I’m sure we can be flexible. It’s important the young players get a chance to play on such a big occasion.”

Meanwhile, defenders Jonny Evans, Nemanja Vidić and Chris Smalling continue to work on individual fitness programmes back at Carrington. With Rafael da Silva away at the Olympics until – at worst – 11 August – and his brother Fabio loaned out, Ferguson is likely to need at least one of the injured trio fit come the big kick-off on 20 August.

“Jonny Evans has had an operation,” explained Ferguson.

“I’m not sure he’ll start the season but he won’t be far away. Vidic will start the season. I am sure of that. He’s doing good amounts of training but not in the competitive sense in the way the lads out here have done. It was pointless bringing him with us. He’s back at Carrington with the facilities and the physios so he can get to the next level. By the time we come back, we hope he’ll be at the competitive stage of his comeback.

“Chris Smalling has actually done a bit of training. But the ruptured groin muscle he suffered needed a lot of attention. He’s making progress and we expect him to start the season.”

For now, however, the prospect of a United side in action – no matter the make-up – will have supporters glued to the television on Wednesday night, especially with summer acquisitions Kagawa and Nick Powell likely to feature in Ferguson’s side.

Meanwhile, for the locals, the chance to take on the world’s biggest club in front of more than 50,000 fans, even if AmaZulu remain rank outsiders to cause an upset.

“We’ll be playing against a big team with great players but we’ll have the same number of players on the field and if we all remain focused we can be able to match them,” said AmaZulu striker Sifiso Vilakazi.

It’s unlikely; the last time United visited South Africa the Reds beat Kaizer Chiefs 4-0, and few expect anything other than a similar result in Durban.

AmaZulu FC versus Manchester United
Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban
Kick off: 7pm (BST)

United from: Lindegaard, Amos, Johnstone, Ferdinand, Veseli, Vermijl, Wootton, Blackett, Valencia, Anderson, Carrick, Scholes, Powell, Kagawa, Bébé, Tunnicliffe, Lingard, Brady, Petrucci, Berbatov, Chicharito, Macheda

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Comments

  1. Minus The Bear says

    Played regularly for Hull on the left wing last season and scored 3 times, probably would have assisted more goals but Hull didn’t really have anyone who could stick the ball in the net. Not the tallest, but pretty strong on the ball, I think it is rather difficult for him as there is very little chance of him getting into his favoured position in the United first team, and can’t imagine he wants to spend a season at United in the reserves as opposed to playing regular Championship football.

    Equally I don’t think he’ll be great at left back, but we’ll see.

  2. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    So Rio’s been at United for 10 years…

    Got to be one of Uniteds top 3/4 centre backs ever.

  3. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    uncleknobheadforfucksake said:
    rios the best centre back utd or england havehad in my lifetime

    Long time that… what? 50/60 years?

  4. Minus The Bear says

    Lindegaard; Veseli, Ferdinand, Wootton, Brady; Lingard, Carrick, Scholes, Macheda; Hernandez, Berbatov

    Kagawa on the bench I presume? Cheers for the stream.

  5. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    AAAIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEE………. THE FUCKING HORNS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    “Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.”

  6. Just1n says

    Typical half arsed pre season performance. Im taking my son to the Ajax game and hope they dont serve up this shit. Mind i will be wearing green and gold and blowing a vuvuzela (just for Alf)

  7. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    Just1n said:
    Typical half arsed pre season performance. Im taking my son to the Ajax game and hope they dont serve up this shit. Mind i will be wearing green and gold and blowing a vuvuzela (just for Alf)

    Cheers…

  8. Yang says

    Nothing new, this is exactly same performance from league cup games, it is mixture of few senior and reserve team members. This kind of team in no match for the decent regular professional team.

  9. Ichiro says

    Lingard was good, never seen him play before.

    Felt sorry for Kagawa came on for the last ten minutes but ball wouldnt go out of play so only got about 3 minutes.

  10. Minus The Bear says

    Commenter said:
    Nothing new, this is exactly same performance from league cup games, it is mixture of few senior and reserve team members. This kind of team in no match for the decent regular professional team.

    Think that’s a bit harsh, they’ve had 10 days of preseason and it was the first preseason game. It wasn’t a stunning performance by any stretch of the imagination but not bad for a group of players who haven’t really played togther. Lindegaard made some smart saves in goal. The defence looked a bit ropey at times but not altogther surprising considering it was Ferdinand and the youngsters around him. The full backs did a decent job, Brady got forward well, as did Vermijl and Blackett in the second half. Scholes and Carrick played alright, some nice passes and Scholes just about managed to refrain from clattering someone/everyone. Berbatov found it all a bit too easy and generally made a mockery of everyone with his touch and control. Hernandez drifted in and out a bit, particularly in the second when United got pushed back deeper. Could have scored but for a very good save. Macheda took his goal nicely, had a couple of chances but was pushed out towards the wing in the 3 pronged attack. Lingard was very bright and impressive, always wanted the ball and very energetic. Tunnicliffe and Petrucci did alright, didn’t have a great deal of time, although the latter smashed the crossbar. Anderson came on, didn’t get injured, did some good passes and also some not so good passes, Kawaga came on and didn’t really have time to do anything. Fergie said he’d play on Saturday against Cape Town and Powell was behind on the training so probably wouldn’t.

  11. says

    a 1-0 win over Amazulu makes United a laughing stock here in South Africa. Trust me on this. But hey, there’s only 10 million of the 600 odd million United fans who are South Africans (about 20% of the SA population)

    Just a thought: here’s my evil plan to destroy the world:
    1. build a time machine
    2. travel back to 1999 and the night in the Nou Camp
    3. tell the victory-celebrating United fans emerging from the stadium the name of the team who are destined to overtake United in the 2011-2012 season swallowing up an 8 point lead in order to win the EPL title in the final seconds of added on time in the final game of the season
    4. wait for the fans’ thunderous sarcastic laughter, which creates such seismic shock waves it rips the Earth out of its orbit
    5. leaving, of course, `nae value in the solar system’.

  12. SpudiatorSpudiator says

    Who cares if United are a laughing stock in South Africa? It’s a pre-season friendly, it counts for the precise sum of fuck all!

  13. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    Commenter said:
    a 1-0 win over Amazulu makes United a laughing stock here in South Africa. Trust me on this. But hey, there’s only 10 million of the 600 odd million United fans who are South Africans (about 20% of the SA population)

    Let them laugh… they were beaten by Uniteds 3rd string… a bunch of children, a ginger geriatric, and Berbatov.

    I wouldn’t brag too loudly about losing to that lot… even at only 0-1

  14. Just1n says

    Commenter said:
    a 1-0 win over Amazulu makes United a laughing stock here in South Africa. Trust me on this. But hey, there’s only 10 million of the 600 odd million United fans who are South Africans (about 20% of the SA population)

    Really? What retarded part of SA do you reside in? Everyone knows its pre-season and this is nowhere near a strong squad. Stop spouting shit.

    • Damian Garside says

      Oh, let him scoff. I live in Mafikeng ( woon by Mafikeng/ke dula mo Mafikeng) in NW Province of SA and unimpressive results here DO say something g about the team (since when are Berbatov and Hernandez “third stringers”) . Already had Chelsea fans mocking me for my team’s poor performance here.

  15. Just1n says

    I was at the game. 55000 Chinese knockoffs of the Man Utd kit. Uncle Malcolm must be livid.

    Impressed with Kagawa. Always available for the pass and not afraid of taking on players and he tackles. Wow.

    Who needs Berbatov when we got Bebetov.

  16. Minus The Bear says

    Yeah, China time. They have a 2nd string out, playing top at the weekend so basically they are using it as a run out for the reserves. Scrapy, not a lot really happening, they’ve packed the midfield with 5 and we are managing to isolate Macheda well…

  17. Minus The Bear says

    Haha something like that, it may well be be Wan, but it appealed to my childish sense of humour.

    So Powell’s missed a good chance but other than that it’s been pretty much a training exercise of trying to get through 10 players. Petrucci has been alright and that’s about it.

  18. Sidsidney says

    Minus The Bear said:
    Haha something like that, it may well be be Wan, but it appealed to my childish sense of humour.

    So Powell’s missed a good chance but other than that it’s been pretty much a training exercise of trying to get through 10 players. Petrucci has been alright and that’s about it.

    So for once we’re playing a midfield that has more cocks in it

  19. kramer says

    boring as fuck. shanghai don’t want to attack, almost all the game has been played in their half, and lindegaard has frequently been the only player in our half.

  20. kramer says

    shit game, but kagawa, anderson, petrucci were all good.
    bebe played well. he always seems to be productive inspite of all his shitness, its mind boggling.

  21. Sidsidney says

    uncleknobheadforfucksake said:
    why are you watching it

    Nothing better to do other than to watch Ando plod around, Kiko faff and Fergie look hot

  22. Bill says

    Kagawa goal was deflected, Bebe went past one defender so he could put over the cross, against a Conference/L2 equivalent side and we won 1-0. WOW!!!

  23. madredmonkeymadredmonkey says

    Bill said:
    Kagawa goal was deflected, Bebe went past one defender so he could put over the cross, against a Conference/L2 equivalent side and we won 1-0. WOW!!!

    pre season who cares.

  24. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    Nani’s got talent… good ball skills… but there’s no football brain there at all… he hasn’t got a clue.
    if Mourinho wants to give United £20m for him… take it… bite his arm off at the shoulder.

    “Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.”

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