Sure, it was only a preseason friendly, but I’m certain I’m not the only one who’s glad to see Manchester United back in action. And speaking of action, there was plenty of it to be had last night, as United opened their five-match U.S. tour with a 4-1 win over the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium.
While tours like these are no doubt helpful for United off of the pitch in a business sense, it’s also quite helpful on the pitch as well.
It’s been a busy summer for United, with three new faces coming in (and perhaps another, but let’s not look too far ahead, shall we?). With the Community Shield against City only three weeks from Sunday and the Premier League season opener away to West Brom now less than a month away, it’s important for those new faces to get acclimated with their new teammates on and off of the pitch as quickly as possible.
With Phil Jones and David de Gea yet to join up with the squad after their participation in the U-21 Euros last month, the only signing to debut last night was Ashley Young. And from the looks of it, the former Aston Villa man is already fitting in very well, as he was very involved in the action before he was replaced by Gabriel Obertan in the 67th minute.
Young’s pace is one of the hallmarks of his game, and it was certainly on display on a regular basis. It appeared that the team made it a point to get him as involved as possible, which is a very positive sign for how well things are clicking thus far and how well they can with even more time together. It was a shame he wasn’t rewarded with at least one assist, but he played multiple threatening balls and caused a lot of problems for an outclassed but gritty Revolution defense. We were also able to see that versatility and interchangeability that he brings to the table, as he and Nani swapped flanks. Overall, it wasn’t a spectacular debut, but it was solid, and there was a lot to indicate that he’ll prove to be well worth the investment.
The preseason also offers up the opportunity for reserves and young players to make their mark and prove that they’re deserving of opportunities, and one especially took full advantage of his chance last night. Up to this point, Federico Macheda hasn’t been able to parlay a few clutch moments, unforgettable as they may be for the United faithful, into stamping down a regular place in the side, and this could be a make-or-break season for his United future. If last night is any indication, he’s well aware of that, as he produced two fine finishes for United’s second and third goals. There’s no question about whether or not the boy has talent, but whether or not he can produce on a consistent enough basis to make a real difference.
One area where United aren’t lacking for quality depth is up front, as last night showed, with Macheda’s brace and Michael Owen’s clinical finish for the opener early in the second half. He may be getting up in years, but there’s a good reason why United kept him on. It’s no stretch to say there are still few better natural finishers out there, and if he can overcome the injury issues that have blighted his first couple of seasons with United, he can still make a real difference, even as a super-sub.
There are still kinks to work out, quite naturally, since it was just the first preseason match. However, it’s always great to win and to put in a good performance at the same time, and United did that.
Of course, entertainment is a prime objective on these tours, and the second-half goal barrage those two kick-started really livened up the sizable crowd. United brought out the big guns, showed off some fancy moves, and earned a comfortable win in the end, which was expected. But to their credit, New England belied their current MLS standing and made a good account of themselves by sticking with one of the world’s best teams for as long as they did, which could serve as a confidence boost for the remainder of their season. So, all in all, it was a profitable night for everyone involved.
After culminating their stay in the Boston area with last night’s win, United are already off to their next tour destination, Seattle, where they’ll face Seattle Sounders FC next Wednesday night. The Sounders boast the highest attendance in MLS by a wide, wide margin, and they’re also one of the league’s top teams, currently second behind David Beckham’s Los Angeles Galaxy for the most points in the league.