Tag North American Tour

Tag North American Tour

Fergie says Reds will match Barça. How?

July 30, 2011 Tags: , , Opinion 44 comments

Sir Alex Ferguson has once again challenged his players to match Barcelona, with Manchester United facing the European champions in Washington on Saturday night. Just 63 days after the humiliating defeat by the Catalans at Wembley the question, with six senior players having left the club and no new central midfielder on the horizon, is how?

This, of course, is no trivial matter. The destruction by Pep Guardiola’s side in London was so comprehensive that Michael Carrick’s head is probably still spinning. While Barça is so good that few successfully compete, United’s total capitulation in midfield on 28 May served only to highlight the glaring weakness in Ferguson’s squad.

That Ferguson can no longer call on Paul Scholes, Owen Hargreaves nor – in all likelihood – Darron Gibson in the coming season has also reduced the Scot’s options in midfield. The quality hardly ran deep to start.

In the aftermath of Wembley defeat Ferguson challenged his players to reach Barça’s level; it’s a theme that United’s 69-year-old coach returned to ahead of Saturday’s game in the Capital.

“In everyone’s mind they are the best team, currently, in the world,” admitted Ferguson, without hint of irony.

“I’m quite happy to be in second place at this moment in time because that’s our challenge. Our challenge will be to get to that level.”

Yet, Ferguson’s summer activity to date has largely been aimed at maintaining the status quo. Long-term evolution rather than a quantum leap in quality has been the theme. Hardly a portent to challenge Barcelona as Europe’s finest in the coming campaign. In any case, many observers feel that United over-achieved on the continent last season.

David de Gea will replace Edwin van der Sar in the medium term, although Ferguson has offered Anders Lindegard the chance to impress during the pre-season US tour. Whichever way the goalkeeping decision goes it is certainly not yet an upgrade.

Meanwhile, room for Phil Jones has been made by the transfer of Wes Brown and John O’Shea to Sunderland. Jones is flexible and talented but completely inexperienced at European leave. Then there is Ashley Young, who will at least offer a versatile alternative to the failed experiment with Gabriel Obertan and Bébé, although few count the former Aston Villa winger in Barça’s class.

There is little doubt Ferguson recognises the problem at the heart of his midfield though. This despite protestations to the contrary in recent days. After all, why else would he instruct chief executive to pursue the aforementioned midfield trio this summer? Yet, David Gill insists deals for Sneijder, Modric and Nasri are now “dead.” United seemingly lack the financial muscle to force Inter’s hand over the Dutchman, Nasri will probably join Manchester City next summer, and Tottenham Hotspur remains intransigent over Modric, who has expressed a desire to join Chelsea in any case.

“We didn’t progress that one [Sneijder]. I’m not doing anything on anything at the moment, so they are all dead,” said Gill on Friday.

“The important point is that you never know. I’ve been around in football long enough to know things change quickly. Somebody may become available and we can then say we are interested.

“We have been clear all along. There is money in the bank. Some people have not believed us but if a player is required to improve the squad and challenge for top honours, the money is there. That is still the case. We are not afraid to spend big money on players of a certain age.”

Whether Gill’s comments are yet another in a long-line of spin from the executive will only be confirmed on 31 August. Yet, Gill’s key line – “of a certain age” – might well be confirmation that United’s transfer policy of buying young with a view to re-sale value is still in place. Informally United will not spend large fees on players over 26.

With Sneijder now 27, a total financial commitment of more than £80 million required to prize the Dutchman away from Inter and pay the midfielder’s wages, and little re-sale possible, it is inconceivable that United will deal unless Blaunegra substantially reduces its financial requirements to nearer £20 million than £35 million.

The impasse leaves the Reds to look for an alternative or – far more likely – Gill may Ferguson to begin the season with Anderson, Carrick, Ryan Giggs and Darren Fletcher as the senior central midfielders at the club. Each has their significant limitations.

This is to say nothing of the club’s desperate need for a defensive midfielder with Hargreaves now cast into football’s wilderness.

What then of the stated goal to match Barcelona? Based on a hope and a prayer, critics might add. Perhaps Anderson ‘will come good’ after four years of inconsistency. Maybe, Fletcher will regain confidence after a debilitating illness. Potentially Carrick will step up a level despite history telling us otherwise. Hope, as a wise observer once noted, is no kind of strategy.

That Barça can boast such riches in attack and yet add both the outstanding Alexis Sanches and in all probability Cesc Fabregas too has if anything taken Guardiola’s side further away from United this summer.

United may well emerge victorious as FedEx Field tonight. Ferguson side is, after all, three weeks ahead of its opponents in pre-season preparation, with Barça not beginning the La Liga campaign until late August. Without central midfield reinforcements few will expect a repeat come the Champions League final next May.

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.

Reds go west for fitness and fame

July 8, 2011 Tags: , , Opinion 5 comments

Manchester United’s players head to the United States on Monday, with five matches in five cities over three weeks ahead before the squad returns at the end of July. In between Sir Alex Ferguson’s players will build fitness at Nike HQ and join sponsors in a rash of commercial events across the continent. As ever the search to ‘break America’ continues as football’s popularity grows in the land of Gridiron.

In part the tour is serious preparation; United will meet increasingly difficult opposition, while spending a week training Nike’s superb centre in Beaverton, Oregon. The campus will be familiar to Wayne Rooney at least, who spent a week away from prying eyes last November recuperating from injury, and escaping the tabloids as the fall-out from the player’s October Revolution and Hookergate continued.

Indeed, facilities right across the US are routinely praised by Ferguson; it’s a far cry from the days when the player’s return to United’s old training ground The Cliff overweight and the off-season meant two extra days drinking. The squad then toured Scandinavia before rounding off pre-season with a couple of random home friendlies against lower-league opposition.

No longer and Ferguson’s players will have been rigorously tested at Carrington this week for fitness levels and body fat, among a lengthy check-list of key indicators drawn up by the club’s backroom staff.

“I’ve got to say football has moved on from the point where you’re going on country runs. You can extract the same amount of fitness from short football sessions, particularly when they’re more football-related,” former United player Gary Neville told FourFourTwo.

“You find now that flogging players on long runs, those old days are gone. In terms of being a football player, it’s more suited and something that is better for the player. Times move on. I wish I was in the peak of my career but my time has gone. At the end of the day, I wish I was there in some ways but, with the current state of my body, I’m glad I’m not!”

Aside from fitness pre-season tours are increasingly used by Ferguson to assess the developer of the club’s younger players. Although none of last season’s FA Youth Cup winning side will join the tour this time round, plenty of fringe reserve players will. Danny Welbeck, returned from Sunderland and Tom Cleverley, who spent last season at Wigan Athletic, will both feature prominently in the US. It is also possible that Reserve Player of the Year Oliver Gill, Robbie Brady, and Oliver Norwood will also feature Stateside.

“The tour always provides some of the younger players with a chance to impress,” says Jonny Evans, who will himself want to impress after falling down the pecking order at Old Trafford.

“My brother Corry got the opportunity to go last year, as did a few of the other younger lads, and it gave them a lot of confidence for the new season. We all really enjoyed the tour last year and it’ll be good to go back again.”

Interest will also be high in United’s summer acquisitions, with Ashley Young joining the tour from the start. The £15 million winger will benefit from Antonio Valencia’s absence at Copa America and a chance to establish his presence in Ferguson’s first-team thinking. Young will also discover, perhaps for the first time, just how widespread United’s support has become in the US.

However, Ferguson’s other multi-million buys, Phil Jones and David de Gea, who each played in this summer’s Euro Under-21 tournament in Denmark, have been given an extra week off by Ferguson and may join the party in Oregon next Thursday. de Gea’s absence may offer Danish goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard an opportunity, with Tomasz Kuszczak likely to leave the club this summer.

Before United land at Nike World Campus Ferguson’s squad opens the tour with a fixture in the Boston suburbs against New England Revolution. The 68,000 capacity Gillette Stadium, located 25 miles from downtown Boston, is also home to the New England Patriots American football side in the winter.

Further fixtures against MLS sides Seattle Sounders and Chicago Fire follow as United cross-cross the country, racking up more than 8,000 air miles in the US alone. United end the tour first in New Jersey, facing the MLS All-Stars for a second summer in a row, before a reunion with Barcelona in Washington at the 91,000 capacity FedEx Field stadium, home to the Washington RedSkins.

Yet games are only a part of the tour, which is likely to generate around £5 million in revenues for the club. Sponsor-led events are planned in many of the squad’s stops, including Chicago: home of AON. The Glazer family will no doubt note, in the week that Manchester City ‘sold’ naming rights to Eastlands for hundreds of millions, that four of the five stadiums in which United play bare sponsors’ names.

Manchester United announced its provisional travel roster for their five-game tour of the United States, including their match against the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday, July 13.

A few players, including Mexican international Javier Hernandez, will join the club in the United States during the tour after their agreed leave time.


GOALKEEPERS: Ben Amos, David de Gea*, Sam Johnston, Anders Lindegaard

DEFENDERS: Fabio Da Silva, Rafael Da Silva, Jonny Evans, Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdinand, Phil Jones*, Chris Smalling*, Nemanja Vidic

MIDFIELDERS: Anderson, Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley*, Ryan Giggs, Nani, Gabriel Obertan, Ji-Sung Park

FORWARDS: Dimitar Berbatov, Mame Biram Diouf, Javier Hernandez*, Federico Macheda, Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck*, Ashley Young

* Player will join tour late

13 July: New England Revolution, Gillette Stadium, Boston, Massachusetts

Gillette Stadium, Boston

20 July: Seattle Sounders, CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Washington

CenturyLink Field

23 July: Chicago Fire, Soldier Field, Chicago, Illinois

SoldierField, Chicago

27 July: MLS All-Stars, Red Bull Arena, Hamilton, New Jersey

Red Bull Arena, Harrison New Jersey

30 July: Barcelona, FedEx Field, Washington, DC

FedEx Field, Washington

Fergie’s right, friendlies worthless

March 28, 2011 Tags: , Opinion 15 comments

Sir Alex Ferguson has again condemned international friendlies as a “worthless waste of time” in a week that England reserves play Ghana in front of more than 80,000 duped fans at Wembley. And the 69-year-old Scot surely has a point, with neither players, nor club coaches taking friendlies seriously – normally prompting a host of withdrawals and minor injuries. Although there is no little irony in Ferguson’s proclamation coming in the week that Manchester United announces another extensive tour of the US.

“I am all in favour of the competitions,” Ferguson told Sirius radio today.

“The players should play in the major competitions; the European Championship, the World Cup. But friendlies are a waste of time as far as I am concerned. It is understandable for the coach. They have the players for a period when they can influence them and can build and shape their team. I can understand that completely.

“But every time there are friendlies you get six or seven call offs. It is sometimes worthless for the manager to build on that because of the lack of players.”

Indeed, Ferguson has long-held international friendlies in contempt, with matches adding to his players’ fixture burden during the season and the risk of injuries high.Ferguson is increasingly not alone in this regard, with major European clubs all keen to end fixtures that are not FIFA sponsored qualifying or tournament matches.

Perhaps little surprise then that Fabio Capello released four key members of his squad this week, mindful that he must keep club managers on side. United’s Wayne Rooney joined new England captain John Terry, Michael Dawson, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Aaron Lennon in returning to their clubs.

Yet the withdrawals make a mockery of England’s fixture against the World Cup quarter-finalists, with an FA spokesperson today forced to spin the game as a good opportunity for some of Capello’s lesser-lights. Former Ghana captain Stephen Appiah came closer to the truth, branding the late withdrawals as “disrespectful”.

“A lot of Ghanaians have travelled from America, Canada, from around the world. It’s a dream come true. It’s huge, it’s big and Ghanaians are going to follow the match,” added the 30-year-old.

“Ghanaians are disappointed. They really wanted to see those players. The players wish they could play against JT. It’s their dream to play against Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard and all these players. Maybe some of them will not play in that stadium again.”

In truth the FA, burdened with over whelming debt incurred during Wembley’s reconstruction, is forced to fill every date on the international calendar, no matter how pointless the game. And this is as pointless as international friendlies come, although presumably not to the sell out crowd, including 21,000 Ghanaian fans who might have expected a full-strength England team.

Still, Ferguson will remain open to charges of hypocrisy when he announces a money-spinning but lengthy five-date US tour on Tuesday. The Scot flew to the US to unveil the summer 2011 tour, which follows United’s trip to Canada, the US and Mexico in 2010. That tour earned the Reds more than £3 million in revenues, with large crowds at many venues including Houston where United beat an MLS All Stars team 5-2.

The club today pre-briefed media on the 2011 tour, which will include another fixture against the All-Stars, this time in New York. It’s a match so ‘friendly’ that it takes place against a team that is neither a regular club, nor owns a home ground. Meanwhile, the club’s fortnight-long tour will also take in Boston on 14 July before ending in Washington with a fixture against Barcelona on 30 July.

“We’re delighted to have been invited to play the MLS All-Star game for the second year running,” added Ferguson.

“Last year’s game was a special occasion in front of a noisy, passionate crowd. Obviously we’ll be looking to repeat the performance and the score line.”

… and raise revenues for much-needed summer replacements, the Scot could also have added.

It is, of course, a sign of the times, with profit now the primary consideration during the summer break and not players’ recuperation or preparation for the coming season. Indeed, it is more than a decade since United last remained in Europe during the summer, where trips to Scandinavia were once commonplace.Those were the days before United strove to ‘break America’, open new Asian markets or extend the club’s ‘brand value’.

Nostalgia perhaps. Not unlike recalling England’s distant international glories.

Chicharito keeps feet grounded as United début beckons

July 28, 2010 Tags: , Matches 10 comments

Javier Hernández’ début in a Manchester United shirt comes tonight as Sir Alex Ferguson’s side takes on an MLS All-Star XI in Houston. The match, the Reds’ fourth on this summer’s tour, will offer the 22-year-old Mexican a brief taste of life in a United shirt after the striker trained with the squad for the first time yesterday morning.

Hernández is unlikely to start though as United seeks to regain momentum lost after the 2-1 defeat to Kansas City Wizards on Sunday night. Indeed, the Mexican is likely to appear as a late second half substitute after the single training session yesterday, with the striker offered a long summer break post World Cup.

Signed for £7 million without fanfare in April, Hernández’ performance in South Africa, where the former Chivas Guadalajara striker scored twice against France and then Argentina, has already set high expectations of immediate success in Manchester.

The pressure was hardly eased yesterday, with Ferguson bragging that United could have paid three times the £7 million fee had the deal been concluded after the tournament. It is a message also underscored by former United great Bobby Charlton, who expressed his “great excitement” about the player during yesterday’s training session.

Supporters though should be wary, with the striker’s inexperience compounding a move across continents that will require a potentially lengthy period of integration into Premier League football. After all, another South American – Diego Forlan – failed to score in a United shirt for more than 20 games before leaving the club at a knock-down price. Today, Forlan is widely regarded as one of the World’s leading strikers.

It’s a challenge Ferguson at least recognises, with tonight’s game not only a chance for the US public to glimpse United’s newest star but a first step on a long road towards integration.

“He joined us today and so we have to ascertain what he has been doing in the last few weeks physically, we would like to use him in part of the game on Wednesday – partly because I know there is a big Mexican population in Houston and it would be a very exciting attraction for them,” Ferguson said in Houston before taking his squad on a tour of NASA’a HQ.

“Secondly we want to try to integrate him into the team as quickly as possible so those are the reasons we would like to play him but we want to just have a chat with him and see what he has been doing physically – I don’t think it would be wise to play him without having any real preparation for this game.”

Hernández though is remaining grounded despite high praise from the United camp and a palpable sense of expectation among United’s support both in the US and back home. Indeed, the striker is mindful of the challenges that have faced compatriots Giovanni dos Santos and Carlos Vella on English soil in recent seasons.

“I have spoken to them and they are definitely happy for me and they know that this is the most powerful league in the world,” said Hernández.

“They tell me to take advantage of the situation and I should thank God for the opportunity.

“I always try to see pressure in a different way – more like motivation. There are millions of people in the world who would do anything to be in my position and have this opportunity.

“It’s an honour because I want to achieve big things. It’s a very nice challenge and hopefully I will be able to contribute.

“I will always try to enjoy it because sometimes we focus so much on the achievements and our dreams, and maybe we forget to enjoy it.”

The MLS game arguably offers United the toughest fixture of the pre-season programme, with American star Landon Donovan leading the All-Stars attacking line-up. A Premier League side has never beaten the MLS’ All-Star team on US soil, although UK-based United fans will have to stay up late to see if United can buck the trend with the game kicking off at 1.30am Thursday morning.

Hernández will then play the full 90 minutes of United’s fixture with Chivas Guadalajara in Mexico on Friday night – with a half played in the shirt of each club as part of the deal that brought the striker to Europe – before the squad flies to Dublin on Saturday for a fixture against a League of Ireland XI.

It is there, in Dublin, that United’s tour squad will meet up with the club’s other World Cup players for the first time this summer. Wayne Rooney, Patrice Evra and co, have been on a punishing accelerated fitness programme back at Carrington this week.

They will, no doubt, have developed a thirst for the black stuff by then.

No panic on the streets of Kansas City

July 26, 2010 Tags: , Matches 3 comments

Manchester United went down to MLS outfit Kansas City Wizards late last night, with Sir Alex Ferguson blaming the Reds’ inexperienced defence for this summer’s first pre-season defeat. In truth though, United put in an embarrassingly haphazard performance, despite playing with a man advantage for more than half the match.

Kei Kamara scored the host’s winner in the 42nd minute as the MLS side provided United with its toughest fixture of the tour to date. Dimitar Berbatov had brought United level from the penalty spot a minute earlier following Davy Arnaud’s opener just 10 minutes into the match.

But when the Wizards’ Jimmy Conrad received his marching orders for the professional foul leading to United’s penalty the red not only reduced the hosts to 10 men but seemingly spoilt the game as an exercise for the tourists. No major trophies are handed out in pre-season and Ferguson’s undoubted wish is for his stars to get a good work out during the three week tour.

However, United’s advantage barely registered during a match in which Ferguson’s side offered almost no attacking threat, passed the ball poorly and looked extremely vulnerable at the back. The disappointment is magnified because the Reds faced just 10 men for the majority of match, played in front of more than 52,000 fans.

But if many of those supporters left the stunning Arrowhead Stadium, redeveloped at a cost of $375 million, disappointed with the result and United’s performance, then Ferguson at least will draw comfort from the knowledge that his young team may take some matches to bed together. After all the back four had an average age of less than 21.

“I thought the inexperience of the defenders showed in the first 15 minutes,” Ferguson told the media last night.

“That was a bit of a handicap and we never quite recovered from that. Bunbury was a handful physically – he gave us a hard time that way. But I felt young Ben Amos organised the defenders and calmed them down.

“The things we are looking for from the players are coming, but our possession of the ball today was ragged at times. Normally we are much better. Hopefully that will come with the games.

“It was a competitive match in a good atmosphere and despite the result I am satisfied with the progress we are making.”

That inexperience showed with Ryan Smith giving Rafael da Silva another lesson in a steep career learning curve and Chris Smalling facing a tough physical challenge from Canadian forward Teal Bunbury.

Elsewhere the excuses fell a little flat, with Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Dimitar Berbatov and Nani forming the backbone of an experienced attacking unit that will surely put the performance down to the thicker grass and Missouri heat.

The team now moves on to Houston Wednesday for a far tougher fixture, on paper at least, against the MLS All-Star XI with a more purposeful performance top of Ferguson’s agenda.

The defeat to Kansas certainly posed more questions than answers though – in particular those players who offered little in the way of future promise. After all, with the United squad in transition, Ferguson quiet in the transfer market and promising a youthful injection into the team, some players are more under the microscope than others.

Irishman Darron Gibson was hugely disappointing and fast becoming a one trick pony in United’s engine room. The criticism may be harsh in pre-season but the 22-year-old’s passing is conservative at best – worse still frequently wayward – and his technique is questionable. Indeed, if long range shooting is the Derry-born midfielder’s raison d’être then he will certainly have been disappointed to shank his only effort way over the bar.

The manager’s tour selections must also be questioned. Without injured or resting star names including Wayne Rooney, Michael Owen and Rio Ferdinand, the manager has chosen Giggs and Scholes from the start in each of United’s three tour games.

But is the tour about preparation for the season ahead or building new markets? Ferguson says that fitness and rhythm not victories is key, with marketing the club to an enthusiastic American audience a secondary concern. The cynic might suggest otherwise.

After all we’ve been here before when in 2004 Ferguson parachuted in United’s missing stars after a grumbling US public indicated it had been short-changed on the Reds’ previous tour to the Americas.

Not that any negativity has shone through with the US public to date and the match-going fans should be happy with the introduction of Javier Hernández on Wednesday night. In a minor change of heart the Mexican will now play some part in United’s fixture with the All-Stars before turning out for both sides on Sunday for the tie with Chivas Guadalajara.

Expectation is high, as with the remainder of United’s younger players. Chicharito will hope to shine just that little brighter than some of his colleagues managed last night.

Nani plays as Reds start season short

July 25, 2010 Tags: , Matches, Opinion 5 comments

Nani starts for Manchester United against Kansas City Wizards tonight but Sir Alex Ferguson will begin the new season short of key players through injury and recuperation. Indeed, the Scot may not have a fully fit squad until the Autumn, with United navigating four domestic fixtures before the Champions League begins in September.

Without Rio Ferdinand, Michael Owen, Anderson and Owen Hargreaves against Newcastle United on 16 August, the Scot’s World Cup contingent, together with Gary Neville and Antonio Valencia, will also likely to be short of match fitness.

Following a season of frustrating injuries in 2009/10, Ferguson will undoubtedly rue his luck as the new campaign begins in much the same fashion. There is, however, at leas some hope with Ferdinand returning in around six weeks’ time according to the Scot, Owen before September’s end and Neville and Valencia now back in training.

Ferdinand’s injuries are now routine of course, with back problems very likely to reduce the England captain’s appearances over the course of the season. This will come either directly, as afflicted the 31-year old much of last season, or more probably, circuitous knee, groin and calf problems will force the defender into the physio’s room.

No wonder the sense of relief engulfing the manager on agreement with Nemanja Vidic over an, as yet unsigned, new contract.

Neville and Valencia could return for United’s fixture with a League of Ireland XI at Dublin’s newly rebuilt Ariva Stadium on 4 August, just four days short of the Community Shield against Chelsea at Wembley. While Rafael da Silva has featured against both Philadelphia Union and Celtic on the summer tour, Neville will still play a significant role in the coming season.

Valencia will undoubtedly be a key player in United’s campaign in both the Premier League and Europe in the coming season.

Meanwhile, Hargreaves’ future looks bleak, sequestered as he is to Dr Richard Steadman’s Denver clinic. The total of the Canadian born international’s United career over close to two years is just three games in 2008/9 and 30 seconds action against Sunderland last season.

Ferguson must also wait on Anderson, the Brazilian, whose disappointing campaign last time out was cut short by a left anterior cruciate ligament injury. Indeed, so poor had the midfielder’s form been that United countenanced cashing in on the player during the January transfer window, only to receive only loan or low bids for the player.

If injury has in effect saved Anderson’s position at the club then an early October return provides the midfielder with a first opportunity to repay a debt he still owes the club.

United’s World Cup contingent, including Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick, Park Ji Sung, Patrice Evra and Vidic return in around a week as planned but the extended break will leave the quintet effectively five matches short of full fitness.

Javier Hernández begins his return three days earlier against Chivas Guadalajara in Mexico next Friday. The £ 7 million signing will play 45 minutes for each side as part of the April deal that took the striker to Old Trafford.

The effect of injury and the World Cup means that Ferguson will not have a full fit, match sharp squad until the leaves begin falling and some tough matches passed. But with so little added to the squad this summer the manager can ill afford any squad shortcomings, especially at a time when United traditionally – or by folklore at least – is most vulnerable.

Perhaps more than ever Ferguson must rely on the depths of his squad at the season’s very outset.

Key fixtures before United’s squad returns to full fitness
8 August, Chelsea, Community Shield
16 August, Newcastle United, Premier League
22 August, Fulham, Premier League
28 August, West Ham United, Premier League
12 September, Everton, Premier League
14/15 September, Champions League
19 September, Liverpool, Premier League
26 September, Bolton Wanderers, Premier League
28/29, Champions League

United unveils new star striker

July 23, 2010 Tags: , Just for fun 15 comments

Photo: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson attempts strike the ball through a target 51 feet away during a United for UNICEF charity event in New York yesterday. The manager missed, as did Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Darren Fletcher and Edwin van der Sar. Luxury watchmaker Hublot had promised $1 million for UNICEF had any of the players been successful.