Manchester United scored another victory on the North American Tour but Sir Alex Ferguson’s side had to work hard for the win in front of around 40,000 supporters in Philadelphia. Gabriel Obertan, the French youngster who joined the Reds last summer, saved United’s sometimes disjointed display with late goal.
By full time, with the game played in near tropical temperatures just 100 miles south of New York, Ferguson will be grateful for the hard work out and another look at some of the squad’s much vaunted youngsters, if not the team performance.
Indeed, while Federico Macheda will have much to think about after his performance, Tom Cleverley, Fabio da Silva and – eventually – Obertan will have done their hopes of first team action in the coming season no harm at all. Meanwhile, Danny Welbeck’s touch let him down for much of the night until a sublime pass produced Obertan’s goal late on.
In strikers Welbeck and Macheda, Ferguson has placed much faith, spending this tour talking of a new maturity in the younger members of his squad. Early signs of understanding between the pair were realised when Welbeck went close, shooting from 25 yards on the turn.
The Longsight-born youngster then contrived to miss from considerably closer following Fabio’s left-wing cross. The Brazilian’s energy in the left full-back role will surely provide ample cover for Patrice Evra this season.
Paul Scholes, playing even deeper than normal, and Cleverley in a more advanced role, pulled the strings in midfield. The England under-21 international, who spent last season on loan at Watford, showed a neat eye for a pass and plenty of industry alongside more celebrated colleagues.
Locals call this the City of Brotherly Love and on the hour Fabio departed for his twin Rafael, while Correy Evans join the fray in midfield for his first team début, playing alongside his brother Jonny for the first time. With Reese Brown impressing at England Under-19 level this summer, he could soon join Wes in the first team picture too.
Union, a franchise just over a year old and near the bottom of the MLS Eastern Division, worked hard and came close to taking the lead on several occasions during a fragmented second half. But with a quarter-hour to go Obertan, whose final product was questionable for much of the night, benefited Welbeck’s vision to shoot low past Brad Knighton in the Union goal.
United hardly deserved the win but in pre-season fitness and momentum, rather than performances, are the key ingredients the manager is looking for
“You need pre-season games, they are absolutely essential. You need them to get your timing and rhythm and your breathing right,” said Ferguson, who now takes his team to New York for a midtown charity event tomorrow.
“It was the sort of game we probably needed. The Union were really powerful and aggressive, got to the ball quickly and made it difficult for us. They were better than I expected.
“We increased the tempo in the second half and did a little better then. It was a good game for us. They were very good opponents, I thought they did really well.”
United’s next fixture is against the Wizards in Kansas City on Sunday.
United: Kuszczak; O’Shea (De Laet, 77), Brown (Smalling, 61), J. Evans, Fabio (Rafael, 61); Obertan, Cleverley (Fletcher, 61), Scholes (C. Evans, 61), Giggs; Welbeck, Macheda (Berbatov, 61).
Manchester United’s players recreated the famous Rocky Balboa sprint up the 72 Philadelphia Art Museum steps yesterday afternoon, although in this case it was more of a gentle stroll with the squad meeting a swathe of confused local reporters a the top.
The squad – save for Dimitar Berbatov – wore a smart-casual Nike-branded white, red and black outfit, although the Bulgarian clearly did not getthe manager’s circular!
Dimitar Berbatov grabbed a goal and set up another as Manchester United opened the summer tour with a 3-1 victory over Celtic in Toronto. With doubts surrounding the Bulgarian’s future after a disappointing 2009/10 campaign, Berbatov struck the right notes as Sir Alex Ferguson’s team eased to a win in the first of seven pre-season matches.
Substitutes Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley also scored for United, with Georgios Samaras converting a penalty for Celtic as Ferguson’s team saw its first action on the summer after 11 days intensive fitness training.
United began with a strong line-up including Ryan Giggs, Edwin van der Sar, Darren Fletcher and Paul Scholes, although the Dutch ‘keeper aside the Reds’ back four averaged just 20.5 years-of-age with. Smalling made his début alongside Jonny Evans, and the da Silva brothers.
Indeed, the Brazilians on United’s right and left flanks offered plenty of width and dynamism in the opening half before wholesale substitutions broke up the flow of the Reds’ play.
Berbatov’s contributing was telling, expertly controlling Mame Biram Diouf’s cross with his right, before firing into the net with his left. It was typical Berbatov brilliance for the goal, which followed shortly after the Bulgarian fired wide from the edge of the 18 yard area. Such is the frustration with Untied’s £30.5 million signing.
Débutant Smalling’s contribution was less noteworthy, beaten for pace by Joe Ledly before dragging the Welshman down for a penalty. The former Fulham central defender will be thankful that red cards are rarely handed out for professional fouls in pre-season friendlies.
The steep learning curve of a United career begins here for Smalling, whose physique, pace and neat touch mark him out as a signing of potential high-class as long as the mistakes don’t continue.
Berbatov ended the match on a high, first swivelling to set up Welbeck from the right, before the Bulgarian’s back-heel opened up a shooting opportunity for Cleverley. Followers of the midfielder’s time at Watford will know Cleverley rarely needs a second invitation to shoot, this time benefiting from a heavy deflection for the goal.
Ferguson declared himself pleased with the workout, in front of plenty of empty seats but an enthusiastic Canadian crowd.
“We try and get the preparation to a point where they want to want to start playing games. There was a little bit of boredom in the training yesterday (Thursday). They had seven days at Carrington, four days in Chicago and they were desperate for a game,” said the Scot who now takes his team to Philadelphia for a match with the Union on Wednesday.
“The first game is one you want to get out of the road because fitness comes into it, as does the time you give to your players. I thought we were nearly right. I was pleased some of the performances were good.
“There was a period after Celtic scored they got a bit of dominance over us. That was a period we had to get through. The second goal killed the game. It was a fantastic goal too. A marvellous bit of football from Berbatov. The criticisms of him, it doesn’t come from our camp.
“Celtic were very competitive. That’s been the way when we have played them. There is not a lot in it between the two teams because the Scotland-England thing motivates both sets of players. It was never going to be an easy match,” added the United manager.
Ferguson reserved special praise for the Bulgarian striker though, who class is not in doubt but application and attitude most certainly are. With reports suggesting that United is prepared to offload the forward – offering him to European clubs this summer – Ferguson dismissed criticisms of the fragile striker, whose confidence was so obviously shot towards the end of the last campaign.
If he stays – and it remains an if for now – the Bulgarian could yet have a significant impact on the coming season.
United: Van der Sar; Rafael (De Laet 63), Smalling, J.Evans (Brown 45), Fabio (O’Shea 45; Obertan (Macheda 63), Fletcher, Scholes (Gibson 45), Giggs (Cleverley 45); Berbatov, Diouf (Welbeck 63).
Manchester United begins its North American tour with a match against Celtic in Toronto tonight. Sir Alex Ferguson’s squad, missing several key members through injury or an extended summer break, takes on the Scots in the first of a six match summer tour. Four further matches also follow before the tour ends in Mexico on 30 July.
Ferguson, keen to draft in younger players whom the Scot believes will become the basis of next season’s squad, and without the club’s World Cup players, has taken a much weakened squad to North America for the three-week tour. Rio Ferdinand, Gary Neville, Antonio Valencia, Anderson, Michael Owen and Owen Hargreaves also remained in Manchester recuperating from injury.
Indeed, it is likely to be an experimental line-up that takes to the Rogers Centre field tonight, with Wayne Rooney, Patrice Evra, Nemanja Vidic, Javier Hernández and Park Ji-Sung also absent from the party that crossed the pond earlier this week.
Canadian supporters’ loss is younger players’ gain, with the da Silva brothers, Tom Cleverley, Danny Welbeck and Federico Macheda all hoping to feature in tonight’s match against Neil Lennon’s Scots.
The match should also include débutant Chris Smalling, whose £10 million arrival from Fulham was sealed six months ago. After a tough second half to the season with the London club Smalling will gain much from pre-season, not least with Ferdinand and Vidic both missing.
United arrived in Toronto today for the match at the 50,000 capacity Rogers Centre despite the squad’s flight from Chicago being delayed due to bad weather. But with ten days fitness training behind it – four of them in the US – tonight is the first time United has kicked a ball in anger since May.
“We are excited about the game as we have completed 10 days of pre-season training,” said Darren Fletcher, who could captain the side tonight Ferdinand and Neville’s absence.
“Being Scottish, Celtic is an interesting match for me. Training has been difficult but I am sure we will feel the benefits once the season gets under way.
“It was hot enough in Manchester but the heat and humidity in Chicago was something else. It takes a little bit more out of you in training. But it is good preparation for what lies ahead.”
Ferguson, starting his 25th season in charge of United, is likely to make wholesale changes at half-time with most of the 23-man tour party offered some minutes on the pitch against the Scottish giants.
“You have to be careful as you are not accustomed to playing 90 minutes as your body has had a rest,” adds Fletcher.
“So I would not be surprised to see the minutes managed by the coaching staff. I can see players perhaps playing 60 minutes or half a game with a lot of changes. It means everyone will get a fair share of playing time.”
United then travel 500 miles south to Pennsylvania, where Ferguson team takes on the local MLS side Philadelphia Union next Wednesday.
United team from: Edwin van der Sar, Tomasz Kuszczak, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Dimitar Berbatov, John O’Shea, Wes Brown, Rafael, Jonny Evans, Darren Fletcher, Darron Gibson, Chris Smalling, Nani, Fabio, Federico Macheda, Danny Welbeck, Mame Biram Diouf, Tom Cleverley, Ritchie De Laet, Corry Evans, Ben Amos, Gabriel Obertan.
Manchester United’s money-spinning summer tour to Canada, United States and Mexico will offer the squad’s younger players a shot at first team action. With injuries still afflicting the squad and World Cup players given an extended rest half a dozen kids could play against Celtic. It’s an opportunity some won’t get again outside the Carling Cup.
Indeed, many of the players in Sir Alex Ferguson’s squad that plays Celtic in Toronto on Friday, followed by matches against Philadelphia Union, Kansas City Wizards an MLS all-star XI and Chivas Guadalajara, have featured in fewer than 10 games for the first team. Or none at all in the case of Chris Smalling, Tom Cleverley, Ben Amos and Corry Evans.
New signing Smalling, acquired for more than £10 million, has played less than 20 Premier League games for Fulham and will begin the season as fourth choice centre-back behind Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Jonny Evans. However, with Ferdinand injured and Vidic on an extended break, the England Under-21 international could feature in both the Community Shield and United’s opening Premier League fixture against Newcastle United at Old Trafford. It’s a tough ask for the 20-year-old former Maidstone United player, whose form dipped dramatically in the second half of last season.
With last season’s disappointments behind him the 18-year-old Italian faces even greater challenges in the coming campaign. The Italian featured in just x games for United in 2009/10, with persistent groin injuries and doubts over his attitude holding the striker back. Now Macheda faces more competition from Hernández as one of seven strikers in United’s first team squad fighting for one place in the team.
The local lad joins the North American tour but may head out on loan in the coming season. Injuries, including a knee problem that ended the Salford-born striker’s campaign last time out, have stalled the 19-year-old’s career since Ferguson tipped the striker to make England’s World Cup squad. Probably seventh in line for a starting berth in United’s strikeforce so will need to impress in the US.
The Mexican’s bright showing at the World Cup has already increase expectation levels to fever pitch following goals against France and Argentina. However, the 21-year-old striker will surely need a substantial settling in period – remember Diego Forlán – before having a serious impact in the Premier League. The slower pace of pre-season in the US should help the former Chivas Guadalajara striker acclimatise to the United way when he joins the group on 27 July.
Mame Biram Diouf
The Senegalese’s goal against Burnley and then a hat-trick at reserve level were a false dawn for the £3.5 million signing from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s former club Molde. The striker is quick, physical and has a great leap for a smaller player – there’s plenty to work with, although a loan move is likely unless United cuts down the number of forwards at the club. Has a chance to impress pre-season and force his way into Ferguson’s first team thinking. Must keep himself fit to stand a chance though.
The attacking midfielder’s outstanding season with Watford in the Championship was cut short by a knee injury but speedy recovery has ensured a place on the pre-season tour. Talk of a loan move to Newcastle United or Blackpool is now on hold, with Owen Hargreaves’ comeback in grave doubt. Cleverley is hardly a like-for-like replacement but could offer Ferguson additional attacking options if he is not sent out on loan. Yet to make his first team début for United.
Ritchie De Laet
The Belgian impressed this time last year before being pressed into emergency duties during United’s defensive crisis last winter. An excellent performance against Wolverhampton Wanderers was then followed by a disaster away at Fulham that exposed the youngster’s inexperience at the highest level. Will want to impress with Gary Neville and Patrice Evra missing from the tour but is still likely to see action only in the Carling Cup during the coming season.
There are very high hopes for Jonny’s younger brother who performs best in a midfield role. Excellent performance’s for Solskjaer’s second string earned a call to the first team bench in the last weeks of United’s failed Premier League run-in but is yet to make his full début. Composed on the ball and strong in the tackle, Evans has improved remarkably over the past 18 months. A loan move to Nottingham Forest has been mooted.
Fabio da Silva
Rafael’s younger brother has suffered terrible luck with injuries since signing a full professional contract with the club almost 18 months ago. Long thought more talented that his brother, fitness and Evra’s form will dictate how much exposure Fabio will get to first team duties this season. With the Frenchman still on holiday Fabio should get a good run in the side during the summer tour – if he can stay fit that is. Talk of a loan move to Sporting Lisbon has not recently been resurrected.
The English Under-20 international will serve as the first team’s third choice goalkeeper after the sale of Ben Foster to Birmingham City this summer. The Macclesfield-born 20-year-old spent the second half of last season on loan to Norwegian club Molde, appearing eight times in the Eliteserien before returning to Old Trafford this summer. Is likely to spend much of the season in the reserves with an outside chance of a Carling Cup appearance in the autumn.
The Frenchman joined United for £3 million from Bordeaux last summer, but a mystery back complain kept the Under-21 international on the sidelines until October. An outstanding jinking run to set-up Michael Owen against Wolfsburg in the Champions League followed a bright performance against Barnsley in the Carling Cup last season. Strong pre-season performances could bring the French winger into the first team squad, with Park Ji-Sung enjoying a long summer break, Nani only just returning from injury and Antonio Valencia still on the sidelines.
Manchester United heads across the pond for a summer tour of Canada, United States and Mexico after a week of pre-season training in Carrington. Sir Alex Ferguson will take a squad shorn of United’s World Cup players, who have been given extra time off to recuperate, for matches against Celtic, Philadelphia United, Kansas City Wizards, an All-Star MLS XI and Chivas Guadalajara.
Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick, Patrice Evra, Park-Ji Sung and Nemanja Vidic will miss the tour completely, while Javier Hernández will join the party only for the final two matches. The squad will also be without injured players Antonio Valencia, Nani, Owen Hargreaves, Rio Ferdinand, Anderson, Michael Owen and Gary Neville.
“Gary has suffered a minor setback in training with a small tear to his calf muscle. He therefore won’t be going on the tour as it will be more beneficial for him to remain at Carrington to improve his chances of being ready for the start of the season,” explained club mouthpiece ManUtd.com today.
Meanwhile, Hargreaves has returned to Dr. Richard Steadman’s US clinic after suffering another breakdown. The Canadian-born midfielder has undergone operations in both knees in an attempt to cure persistent patella tendinitis. Hargreaves played just 27 seconds of United’s match against Sunderland last season but has essentially missed two full seasons.
“The bad news is that Owen Hargreaves is back in America seeing the specialist. He won’t be ready for the start of the season. I don’t know when he’ll be back,” said Ferguson.
“Antonio Valencia should be okay and Nani should be ready for the start of the season, too. Michael Owen is doing great – he’s doing all his work in the gymnasium every day. I don’t think he’ll be fit to go to America but he should be ready for the start of the season.”
Hargreaves’ is a familiar tale, with doubt now raised that the England international will ever make a full comeback. Ferguson also said that Ferdinand could yet be fit for United’s opening Premier League fixture against Newcastle United, while Anderson will return in late September.
Hargreaves’ loss is others gain with pre-season traditional an opportunity for younger players to catch Ferguson’s eye. Indeed, Tom Cleverley’s place in the squad could yet buy the midfielder a shot at first team action with United, rather than the expected loan move to Newcastle ahead of the new season.
Rafael da Silva will also look to cement a place at right-back ahead of Neville, who is entering his final season as a United player, while his brother Fabio should play with Evra on extended leave.
Meanwhile new signings Chris Smalling and Hernández will turn out in a red shirt for the first time. While the Mexican’s excellent performances in the World Cup have United supporters hoping Ferguson has unearthed another gem, Smalling could yet benefit from Ferdinand’s lengthy injury.
United will then head for Dublin to open the new Ariva stadium on 4 August before the Community Shield versus Chelsea at Wembley on 8 August.
16 July V Celtic, Rogers Centre Toronto, 00:00 BST
21 July V Philadelphia United, Lincoln Financial Field Philadelphia, 00:30 BST
25 July V Kansas City Wizards, Arrowhead Stadium Kansas, 23:00 BST
28 July V MLS All-Stars, Reliant Stadium Houston, 01:30 BST
30 July V Chivas Guadalajara, Chivas Stadium Guadalajara,
Edwin van der Sar, Tomasz Kuszczak, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Dimitar Berbatov, John O’Shea, Wes Brown, Rafael, Jonny Evans, Darren Fletcher, Darron Gibson, Chris Smalling, Nani, Fabio, Federico Macheda, Danny Welbeck, Javier Hernandez (will join in Houston on 27 July), Mame Biram Diouf, Tom Cleverley, Ritchie De Laet, Corry Evans, Ben Amos, Gabriel Obertan.