- Owen and Macheda Did Most of the Damage for United
Foxboro, MA – Federico Macheda once again stole the show against MLS opposition on Wednesday night, scoring twice to lead Premier League champions Manchester United past MLS side New England Revolution 4-1 in front of a spirited crowd of 51,523 at Gillette Stadium. The match was the kick-off fixture of the 2011 HerbaLife World Football Challenge, pitting teams from around the world in matches across the United States and Canada.
Manchester United and manager Sir Alex Ferguson, taking the field for the first time in their pre-season tour of the United States, fielded a starting lineup filled with recognizable faces, including striker Wayne Rooney, Portuguese midfielders Nani and Anderson, and Serbian defender Nemanja Vidic. One of the bigger points of interest for United fans, was the debut of newly-signed winger Ashley Young, who had recently joined the club from Aston Villa. Young started the match up front with Rooney and Bulgarian striker Dimitar Berbatov.
With an eye towards an increasingly important match with Philadelphia on Sunday, Revolution head coach Steve Nicol was faced with a difficult task in fielding a starting lineup that could compete, but also wouldn’t be stretched too thin ahead of their upcoming league match. Nicol remarked, “we have a huge game coming Sunday, and we knew that would cause us some problems, but, we did what we had to do.” Nicol opted to play a 4-4-2, playing Benny Feilhaber up top with Rajko Lekic, with Sainey Nyassi and Zak Boggs on the wings. Veteran goalkeeper Matt Reis was more than pleased to stand between the pipes for New England, staring out at one of the biggest and most storied clubs in world football.
The match kicked off in front of a well-populated Gillette Stadium, and they were almost blessed with an early goal, when Chris Tierney found space down the left flank in the 12th minute and fired in a cross that was deflected and found the head of Shalrie Joseph, whose glancing header was only just wide of the far post.
As the first half continued on, Manchester United began imposing their will on the game, showing their world class talent and skill, which finally came through in the 18th minute, when Portuguese winger Nani worked his way through the Revolution defense along the right flank, weaving his way through and creating enough space to fire a cross to Wayne Rooney, whose header was too tall for the crossbar.
Both sides continued to trade punches with each other throughout the middle of the first half. New England played a nice piece of possession football through the middle of the field in the 24th minute, with Joseph and Feilhaber combining to find Pat Phelan, whose off-balance effort from long range was stopped easily. Manchester United then answered back a few moments later, earning a corner kick that failed to test the Revs goal.
Hands down the biggest impact moment of the first half came in the 41st minute, when United defender Fabio broke loose down the left flank and advanced to the goal line, cut back and delivered a pass to an open Berbatov, who was denied in close range by a sprawling Matt Reis, which kept the match level and delighted both groups of supporters.
The first half ended still scoreless, and as the teams walked off the field, it was evident that the home crowd was more than pleased with the effort. That sentiment seemed to be shared throughout both locker rooms as well, Manchester United midfielder, Nani, had high praise for the home club, stating “(Their) position was good. They play compact. In the first half, it was very, very compact. A lot of quality when they pass the ball. I think they can be a good team.”
Both coaches seemed pleased with the effort from their “first XI” in the first half. Revolution head coach Steve Nicol quipped, “Well obviously we’re happy with the way things went things went in the first half. I thought we were pretty solid, defended well. We were fitter and sharper than them, so it was important that we kept things tight and we did.” . The sentiment was shared across the hallway by Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said of the Revolution, “The first half (New England) were very competitive. And I think what happens when you make changes in a game, sometimes you lose that momentum you had in the first half. I thought they did pretty well then, I think that maybe they weren’t as forceful and powerful as they were in the first half. Athletic, it’s what you expect of the States’ teams – they’re all athletic, very committed, fit, and organized. So yeah, they’ll be pleased.”
Both sides began the second half making wholesale changes in their lineups, with the Revolution changing their entire defensive lineup, and also inserting Bobby Shuttleworth in goal. Shlarie Joseph and Benny Feilhaber remained in the game to try to keep some sort of order through the middle of the field.
The lack of first team cohesion from New England was seen almost immediately after the second half whistle blew, when midfielder Michael Carrick opened up the New England back line with a great pass to England international striker, Michael Owen, who buried his first chance of the game after coming on at the half. It was a tidy finish, and even Steve Nicol had to marvel at the quality afterwards, “When you have the guys of that caliber, they have to give him the ball. Then there’s only one thing that’s going to happen and he’s going to put it in the back of the net.”
A second United goal came almost directly after the restart, when three minutes later it was Carrick again playing the role of creator, carving the Revolution defense with a brilliant pass to 19 year-old Federico Macheda, who easily slotted home the pass with the side of his foot.
New England did, however, manage to answer back and find the scoresheet only two minutes later. Benny Feilhaber stood over a dangerous free kick at the top of the Manchester United box and fired low and hard towards the net, but instead found striker Kenny Mansally, who almost in self-defense, redirected the shot past a diving ‘keeper. It wasn’t the prettiest of goals, and the culprit certainly knew it, as Feilhaber added after the game, “I miss-hit it a bit, and Kenny was in the right spot, hit it off the shins – or wherever it hit him – and great finish by him.”
The joy of scoring was short-lived for New England, when United answered in the 61st minute. Rafael stepped up to a corner kick and delivered a cross into the box that skimmed off the head of a leaping Sainey Nyassi, and found the feet of Macheda, who easily beat Shuttleworth back across the goal to the far post, giving United a 3-1 lead.
New England could only muster one more solid opportunity in the 74th minute, when Shalrie Joseph orchestrated a great counter attack off a United set piece. Joseph found space through the middle of the field and played to Mansally, who managed to weave his way into enough open space to fire off a shot that was saved well and parried away by the United ‘keeper.
Easily the prettiest and most eye-opening piece of play came on United’s fourth and final goal in the 81st minute. Second half substitute Gabriel Obertan won the ball down the left side of the penalty area, beat Zak Boggs to the line, and then played the ball to Ryan Giggs, who cheekily flicked-on to Korean international Ji-Sung Park, who collected the flick and deftly chipped over a diving Shuttleworth, igniting the crowd one last time on the night.
The match ended at 4-1 for United, and the Red Devils began their pre-season tour of the United States with a victory. Steve Nicol can certainly look to that first half and find plenty of positives from the play of his first choice team against an incredible opponent. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side looked better in the second half after the pace of play picked up, as he pointed out, “It was all about getting our tempo back and these are the types of games that help towards that. I thought in the second half when we speeded up the passing up through the last subs, we scored some very good goals through that. So I am satisfied.”
New England returns to league play on Sunday night, when the Philadelphia Union come to Gillette Stadium in a huge Eastern Conference matchup. Manchester United continues their tour with a cross-country trip to Seattle, where they will take on the Seattle Sounders next Wednesday night.
2011 Herbalife World Football Challenge
New England Revolution vs. Manchester United
July 13, 2011 – Gillette Stadium (Foxborough, Mass.)
Manchester United 4, New England Revolution 1
MUFC – Michael Owen (Michael Carrick) 51
MUFC – Federico Macheda (Michael Carrick) 54
NE – Kenny Mansally (Benny Feilhaber) 56
MUFC – Federico Macheda (Rafael) 61
MUFC – Ji-Sung Park (Ryan Giggs) 80
New England Revolution: Matt Reis (Bobby Shuttleworth 46), Chris Tierney (Darrius Barnes 46), A.J. Soares (Otto Loewy 46), Franco Coria (Ryan Cochrane 46), Kevin Alston (Kenny Mansally 46), Zak Boggs, Benny Feilhaber (Ousmane Dabo 65), Shalrie Joseph, Pat Phelan (Stephen McCarthy 46), Sainey Nyassi (Ryan Guy 65), Rajko Lekic (Zack Schilawski 64)
Substitutes Not Used: Tim Murray, Alan Koger, Diego Fagundez, Andrew Sousa, Ryan Kinne
STATS*: Shots: 12; Shots on Goal: 6; Saves: 4; Corner Kicks: 0; Offside: 1; Fouls Committed: 4
Manchester United: Anders Lindegaard, Fabio, Jonathan Evans, Nemanja Vidic (Rio Ferdinand 46), Rafael, Ashley Young (Gabriel Obertan 67), Anderson (Mame Diouf 75), Michael Carrick (Ji-Sung Park 75) Nani (Ryan Giggs 67), Dimitar Berbatov (Federico Macheda 46), Wayne Rooney (Michael Owen 46)
Substitutes Not Used: Sam Johnstone
STATS*: Shots: 19; Shots on Goal: 8; Saves: 5; Corner Kicks: 7; Offside: 1; Fouls Committed: 10
* Note that all statistics are unofficial
Referee: Mark Geiger
Assistant Referees: Claudio Badea, Steven Taylor
Fourth Official: Niko Bratis?Weather: Cloudy and 69 degrees