|photo by Marcus Vegas||via PhotoRee|
What a relief. After a tortuous two months of non-Manchester United football, Wednesday finally saw the return of the mighty Reds to our viewing lives. Like water to a parched man, the sights seen on Wednesday will provide sustenance to the club's fanbase worldwide, and an adequate lead up to the beginning of the "real" season in just over a month's time. Viewed on the first leg of their three continent pre-season tour, United faced Amazulu FC in Durban, South Africa, a location known more for its beautiful beaches than the beautiful game.
To Moses Mabhida Stadium we head, to check in on the United's early progress in what can only be described as an extremely important pre-season tour, given last season's paltry trophy return:
o As was expected, United started a mixed bag of a lineup, featuring veterans Rio Ferdinand, Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes among others, but also youngsters Scott Wooton, Robbie Brady, Jesse Lingard and Frederic Veseli. Of note, Dimitar Berbatov was given a rare start -- all the better to show off his wares to any and all interested parties.
o All of the United players looked a bit rusty in the game's opening minutes -- except Paul Scholes. The guy was on song right from the opening kick, and looked as if last season never ended.
o It took 20 minutes to find the net, and although Kiko Macheda got credit for the goal, the through ball from Berba was a piece of art and inch perfect for the setup. In truth, United could have scored multiple times in the minutes prior to the opener, as the disparity in talent was obvious from the opening whistle.
o The home side gained a bit of confidence as the first half wore on, even asking a question or two of United 'keeper Ander Lindegaard before the referee's whistle blew.
o The highlight of the first half came with five minutes to spare, however, as a Berbatov sidewinder volley was just parried over the bar by the Amazulu goalkeeper. The combination of technique and timing captured in one instant the things that are so special about the languid Bulgarian -- who drips talent from either boot every time he touches the ball.
o Other than the first five minutes, the second half was played at a canter, with United seemingly short on and fitness, and unable to hold the ball for sustained attacks.
The players seemed largely to be going through the motions -- with Jesse Lingard and Dimitar Berbatov the only players really looking as if they had something to prove.
o The real highlight of the game for me was the introduction of United's new number 26, Shinji Kagawa. Too bad it came with only ninety seconds to go on the night.
o By the final whistle, it looked as if the United reserve squad was the team on tour, with David Petrucci, Ryan Tunnicliffe, and Tyler Blackett all joining the action. Although it may not have been what they wanted, my guess is that by the end of the game the many United fans in attendance felt the same way I did: it's better than nothing.
This is farlieonfootie for July 19.