Thursday, July 26, 2012

De-flowering: Manchester United 1 - Shanghai Shenhua 0

photo by dawnzy58via PhotoRee

Although the continent changed, the song remained the same from Manchester United with a lineup that included an overabundance of youngsters to face the mega-rich Shanghai Shehnua -- loosely translated as the Flower of Shanghai -- on China's east coast on Wednesday evening. Although the home side lacked the newly acquired Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka due to injury and rest, and fielded a largely second string side against their English visitors, excitement was still high among the many spectators watching the game at Shanghai Stadium. To the match report we go:

o Playing with a defensive set up that included five in the middle of the park, Shenhua frustrated United over the first half of action, and looked better than expected, at least to this particular non-expert in Chinese football.

o The scariest moment of the pre-season saw United's newest signing Nick Powell collide with one of several Wangs in the Shenhua midfield, remaining motionless while the crowd gasped. The concern was enough for Sir Alex to stretch his legs to obtain a  better view of the injured players, and it was with a great sense of relief that both men eventually hobbled to their feet as play resumed.

o A short while later it was Powell in the center of the action again, capping off a perfectly timed goal-bound run with a horrendously aimed shot that pulled just wide of the home team's net. Powell buried his head in the hands, knowing he had missed a gift-wrapped opportunity to end the relative goal drought experienced by the visitors since the pre-season kicked off.

o Although the home side never looked likely to score deploying only a solitary striker up top, neither did they look likely to concede, keeping their shape well and parking the bus in front of goal for large stretches of the contest.

o Anders Lindegaard had to come up big to deny Shenhua's Australian mid-fielder Joel Griffiths in the dying minutes of an otherwise uneventful first 45. Once again, it was with a faint sense of relief that the Reds trudged to the locker room locked in a less-than-thrilling nil-nil draw.

o Sir Alex shuffled the lineup for the second half, bringing on the newly-prolific Bebe at one end and youngster Sam Johnstone at the other. Once again, though, it was Shinji Kagawa impressing most, with some deft layoffs and a near assist, denied only by a fine save from Chinese 'keeper Dong Guangxiang off Kiko Macheda's right foot.

o It was none other than Kagawa who finally broke the deadlock, capping off a fantastic move from Bebe, who seems to have acquired some dribbling skills in his time away  in Turkey. The Japanese international was the beneficiary of a deflection that wrong-footed the Shenhua goalkeeper and finally gave the Reds a deserved advantage, although truth be told the goal was a justifiable reward for another man-of-the-match performance from Shinji.

o Paul Scholes will be kicking himself for missing a wide-open header that would have doubled the Reds' advantage with less than fifteen minutes to play. Although Scholes' passing boots look in mid-season form, his heading could clearly benefit from some additional pre-season practice.

o It was back to England after the game, and United will be pleased to be heading back to Carrington after another less-than-scintillating performance.  Despite the paucity of goals from the men in red, the trip accomplished what it was intended to, showcasing the team to their throngs of adoring fans in both South Africa and Asia, as well as providing some few minutes on the pitch for the veterans, and multiple opportunities for the youngsters to ply their trade in front of the senior coaching staff.

This is farlieonfootie for July 26.

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