Reds wrap easy win as greater competition lies ahead

July 28, 2011 Tags: , , Opinion 18 comments

After four wins in a row on Manchester United’s tour of the United States Sir Alex Ferguson’s team is apparently in good shape ahead of the new season. Light at least one midfielder for sure but, with the Community Shield match against Manchester City just 10 days away, the focus is quickly turning away from the summer transfer market and to, heaven forbid, actual competitive football.

Indeed, the Community Shield may take on added significance this season and not solely because United’s ‘noisy’ rivals offer the competition at Wembley. But with matches against all the club’s title rivals within the first 10 Premier League games, Ferguson’s side cannot afford the kind of slow start suffered last season.

Ferguson puts United’s that start, in which the Scot’s side did not win away from home until October and suffered a succession of draws, down to poor preparation in pre-season. It’s a mistake that the United manager intends to correct before the Premier League starts, for United at least, with a fixture against West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthornes on 14 August.

Yet with four easy victories against Championship-level MLS opponents behind United on this tour there is significant danger in Ferguson’s stars being undercooked for the season opener. Plenty of the Scot’s squad are yet to play a full 90 minutes on tour, while Antonio Valencia and Javier Hernandez have not appeared at all.

The Scot will surely be grateful for tougher opponents in coming games; first against Barcelona in Washington in two days time, then to the Community Shield fixture with City. In between Paul Scholes’ testimonial against a scratch XI under the New York Cosmos banner takes place at Old Trafford.

“Last year, I mucked up by giving the players too many half games in pre-season and not enough 90 minutes,” admitted Ferguson this week.

“I will address that this year because when we played Fulham and Everton early last season we were well short, fitness wise. Anyone can win the league – ourselves, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal or Chelsea. But when I look at it, our biggest challenge is ourselves.”

The challenge certainly hasn’t been the standard of opposition on tour. The four goal victory over a David Beckham-led MLS All Star team in the early hours of Thursday morning brought United’s goal tally to 18 in four games. As in matches against New England Patriots, Seattle Sounders and Chicago Fire, the MLS All Stars’ depth was somewhat threadbare once the rash of second-half substitutions began.

At the tight Red Bull Arena in Franklin New Jersey – one of the few MLS stadiums built especially for football – Ferguson also made significant changes, with nine substitutes entering the field after half-time. The pattern had been similar in previous tour matches. Ferguson, it seems, has largely failed to heed his own words.

Yet Ferguson will be pleased with the performances of Dimitar Berbatov and Anderson who each scored in New Jersey, along with Danny Welbeck and Park Ji-Sung. The Bulgarian may well have a significant role during early season games, with Hernandez lacking match fitness and restricted to training alone for the next fortnight after suffering a mild concussion in warm-up on Wednesday.

Ferguson also singled-out new signing Phil Jones for praise, with the 19-year-old former Blackburn Rovers defender starting the game in an unfamiliar right-back role before reverting to the centre on the hour.

Despite the wholesale changes Ferguson declared himself happy with his squad’s improving fitness, with the Scot likely to deploy a similar strategy against Barcelona on Saturday.

“The fitness is improving all the time, the games help with that, of course,” added Ferguson.

“We’ve had some good training sessions as well and we’ve tried to get tempo into our game and some rhythm. It’s also important all the players are given as much game time as possible. Tonight was the first time we gave the starters a good hour’s work. Saturday will be similar – the first XI that play will get an hour before we change it.”

So to the re-match with Barcelona, just two months after the humiliating defeat against the Catalans at Wembley in May. The 82,000 capacity FedEx Field, Washington, DC will host United’s last tour match before Ferguson’s squad heads home and, with the Spaniards earlier into pre-season than United, a chance for a modicum of revenge.

“It is only pre-season,” added Ferguson. “I just want the players to go out and enjoy it.”

The Catalan giants will be without Lionel Messi, who is still recovering from his exertions at the Copa America with Argentina. But the passing carousel of Andreas Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez and Sergio Busquets are likely to play. That thought alone is likely to bring Michael Carrick out in a cold sweat.

There is, after all, nothing quite like chasing the ball for 90 minutes to increase sub-standard fitness levels.


Spike - July 28, 2011 Reply

“It’s all about commerce in America” (sic)(Beckenbauer Quote from the late 70s)
Even if all and sundry say the opposite.
They can never have the feeling of “belonging” to a club, no matter how pretty the confessions of love.
We in Europe don’t give a flying F**k about Baseball, well most Europeans don’t… what’s this to do with Ed’s post?..fuckall, just wanted to Rant.
No friggin Taxi?



reddread - July 28, 2011 Reply

Why? Why does he keep saying one thing and doing another? How can he say ‘players need 90 minutes otherwise we’ll be no good at the start if the season’, to two days layer saying ‘yep, 60 minutes is a good run out for them and the first XI will be getting that again on Saturday’. Christ, we know he’s an obstinate old bugger, but surely he hasn’t started arguing with himself now?

Don Pablo - July 28, 2011 Reply

If not for anything else, the Barca game will give Fergie a memory of Wembley and how shallow our midfield is. Maybe that will spark him into action. Early indications are that Jones will play in defence and not the defensive midfield role some of us would have hoped given his tackling. Carrick sure does a better field some 20 meters higher than he normally plays and Ando and Fletch too can operate more comfortably higher up the pitch. The need for a destructive midfielder who can tackle, harass and win back play is imo more urgent than a ball player in the Sneijder-mould. The 90 minutes of chasing the ball will hopefully see us address this.

Alfonso Bedoya - July 28, 2011 Reply

sidney - July 28, 2011 Reply

The Ando goal is cool. He stills looks fat though.

Berba’s goal is cool too. Proper centre forward’s run that he never makes because he’s too lazy etc.

captainhormone - July 28, 2011 Reply

ffs..he nearly missed that as well

reddread - July 28, 2011 Reply

Nice one-two with the crossbar from Berbs.

Alfonso Bedoya - July 28, 2011 Reply

Commenter said:
If not for anything else, the Barca game will give Fergie a memory of Wembley and how shallow our midfield is. Maybe that will spark him into action.

To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if we win that game… we’re further along in our preseason, and Messi isn’t playing… Guardiola will no doubt run out Sanchez, and try a few different combinations, but it’s the Messi/Xavi/Iniesta triangle, that’s the hammer, that they beat the fuck out of everyone with.

shauno - July 28, 2011 Reply

Watched Barca and BM last night bit boring but the passing ethos and formation runs through the whole squad. I think the gane will be boring as fuck with Barca passing the ball until we all fall asleep and United’s midfield chasing arseholes. Thiago looked good.

captainhormone - July 28, 2011 Reply

Alfonso Bedoya said:
To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if we win that game… we’re further along in our preseason, and Messi isn’t playing… Guardiola will no doubt run out Sanchez, and try a few different combinations, but it’s the Messi/Xavi/Iniesta triangle, that’s the hammer, that they beat the fuck out of everyone with.

you are pissing me off lately as i have to keep fucking agreeing with you


Alfonso Bedoya - July 28, 2011 Reply

captainhormone said:
you are pissing me off lately as i have to keep fucking agreeing with you


bman - July 28, 2011 Reply

Alf – thanks for the link to the highlights. I don’t put any stock in these preseason games, but any occasion that lets Anderson get a taste for finding the back of the net is to be welcomed. A lots riding on him now. Lindegaard looks alright too, as much as I can judge from that.

Alfonso Bedoya - July 29, 2011 Reply

For anyone who didn’t already know… Chico took a ball to the head, and had to be treated for concussion… and is expected to be out for 2 weeks…

And now this…

Mongoletsi - July 29, 2011 Reply

Hopefully there’s no connection. Hah remember when Scholes was going blind? He still put one past the scousers.

ian - July 29, 2011 Reply

Barca game?
This is an opportunity to attempt a loan deal for Thiago. If Barca really do want Fabregas a two year loan would be good business for both sides. By that time Xavi will be past his sell-by date & with a wing & a prayer Morrison &/or Pogba should be up to steam. Far, far better plan than WS.
We could then buy a decent young defensive MF. Fletcher, Carrick, Park, Giggs, Cleverley & Anderson are not up to that job & it looks as if Jones & Smalling are not being given an audition either. Again a £15 offer for Rodwell with Wellbeck offered on loan should suit both Everton & us. (Screams from the wings “Rodwell is crap”; possibly; leave that one to SAF to decide).
I agree. We will probably beat Barca when it doesn’t matter.

Ed - July 29, 2011 Reply

ian – since when have United loaned a young player from a rival Champions League club? That and Thiago has just signed a new 5 year contract with a €90m release clause. He’s going nowhere, at least not to a direct rival for the Champions League. That and United’s need is hardly for another young player, there’s plenty of those in the squad. What there isn’t is an experienced playmaker or defensive midfielder.

ian - July 29, 2011 Reply

Ed, with Thiago I was just flying a kite; maybe we have got to be a bit more flexible in our thinking. Nothing ventured; nothing gained.

Sorry to go banging on about a quality defensive MF but I think that is a problem that can be solved & the team would have far better balance & be stronger.

I agree that the obvious focus is on an … experienced… creative MF. But if we bought the defensive MF then perhaps we could take a punt on a young talent if Nasri, Modrici et al are out of our reach. Otherwise we are relying on Anderson to take us forward. How much confidence have we in that? And I am one of his fans. What is absolutely certain is the rest of the present cast are simply not good enough.

Ed - July 29, 2011 Reply

Ian – you’re right. I for one have no faith in Anderson turning it around. He’s had four years and at €30m we should have expected more by now.

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