Thursday, 21 July 2011
United vs Seattle Sounders Review & Talking Points
Manchester United crushed the Seattle Sounders 7-0 in their second pre-season game in front of a capacity 67,000 crowd. Full highlights of the games can be found at the bottom of this post.
The eleven that started included Giggs and Anderson in midfield with Owen and Macheda picked up front looking to continue their partnership that brought three goals last week against New England Revolution. The early exchanges saw an aggressive home side compete well with their more illustrious opponents and chances were few and far between. The deadlock was broken for the second successive match by Michael Owen who nodded home unmarked in the six yard box following good interplay down the left by Young and Evra. The Frenchman was making his first appearance of pre-season and looked lively throughout the first period especially in the final third where his support of Young caught the eye. The opening period was also notable for a double save from Anders Lindegaard who once more showed his capabilities between the posts and took full command of his penalty area when the need arose.
The second half saw numerous changes for the home team and as a result they capitulated to a United team brimming with pace and incisive passing. Mame Diouf doubled the Reds lead with a smart finish from a tight angle after a intelligent run was spotted by Nani. After looking understandably rusty in the opening half last week, Wayne Rooney burst into life in typical fashion with a quick fire double to break the spirit of the lively home side. His first resulted from good combination down the right from Nani and Rafael and his second was from an astute pass from Park before a fine finish with his left foot. Regular readers will know I have an issue with players being so one footed so it was promising to see Rooney strike so clinically with his weaker foot. Coming on the back of training footage of him attempting left foot volleys, it proves that good practice can transmit itself to the game.
Rooney repaid Park a few minutes later with a clever step over to leave the South Korean with an easy finish before the Scouser completed his hat trick after good work from Obertan. The temperamental Frenchman has had a chequered United career thus far but has looked lively in pre-season and one hopes that he can begin to show the skills that led him to attend the fabled Clarefontaine academy back in his homeland. He rounded off proceedings with a cool finish after a Rooney pass was deflected into his path.
The battle to be United No 1
Although the three contenders to be the Manchester United goalkeeper this season have a total number of five first team performances amongst them, the battle lines have been drawn. Spanish starlet David De Gea has now joined up with the squad on tour and has looked sharp in training while Lindegaard and Amos have impressed in the opening couple of matches on US soil. I wrote about Lindegaard's capabilities in my review of the previous game and he continued this form in the first half last night. Ben Amos replaced him for the second period and it was instantly noticeable that he looks focussed and keen to impress. It looks like he has been doing plenty of sessions in the gym as he is certainly the bulkiest of the trio and combined with his height it is quite a package. As you would expect he is a fine shot stopper and pulled off a number of these that caught the eye. His command of the penalty box will improve as his confidence rises and he also looks to have ability with the ball at his feet. After a loan spell at Oldham last season, it may be beneficial for him to get regular first team games for the experience rather than playing in the reserves at United. The boss confirmed that De Gea will start against Chicago on Saturday and it looks to be a fascinating battle to become the first choice between the sticks following in the massive steps of Edwin Van der Sar.
Fringe players stepping up
As mentioned above, both Diouf and Obertan made an impression in the second half as the Sounders wilted under the combination of United pace and pressure. Many observers see little future for this pair at the club and I would tend to agree based on the limited opportunities afforded to them since they arrived. Diouf struggled in a poor Blackburn team last season after a bright start and looks short of true United class in what has become a congested part of the first team squad. It is hard to fault him so far on tour and if it leads to a move away from the club then his hard work will stand him in good stead wherever he ends up.
Obertan clearly has talent but one worries about his mental state of mind at times. There have been numerous examples over the years of players with plenty of ability but have failed to make the grade due to what is between their ears rather than the ability in their feet. Perhaps he sees pre-season as a fresh chance to impress the management and he has done just that as his pace and trickery have led to assists in the two halves he has participated in. If he can stay fit and continue to work hard then there is a chance that he could retain a squad place for the new season or at least depart knowing he has given his all.
The battle to be first choice winger at United this season looks to be an intriguing one with some of the contenders making an early case for inclusion on tour. Ashley Young was brought in from Villa and has started both games on the left hand side using his right foot to good effect cutting in. He is also slowly building confidence in his weaker left foot which opens up the opportunity to go either way and makes life so difficult for his opponent. As already mentioned, he combined well with Evra last night and the pair look to have the makings of a potent partnership from an attacking sense. His ability to play right as well as through the middle gives the manager a range of options when it comes to best utilising the former Watford man. I also like his willingness to work for the team which was amply demonstrated by his regular appearances assisting Evra and at some times covering for him when he was caught upfield.
The other contenders, Nani, Park, Valencia and Obertan will all get plenty of chances to prove their worth in the coming weeks as we head towards the new season. Rotation will be in force and it is unlikely that the manager will have a first choice pairing out wide. Instead he will surely adopt a "horses for courses" mentality and select the players based on the role required for each opposition. Park will no doubt play in many of the big games as the manager loves his mentality and ability to come inside to assist the central midfielders. Nani may well be the one to miss out on the starting line up in these high profile games but instead be used against lesser opposition intent on defence in order to assist with a breakthrough with a piece of magic. Valencia is back home after injury saw him return to the club early after an appearance in the Copa America. It is hoped that he will soon be back to fitness as his unselfish displays were a cornerstone of the team in the run in to the climax of the season last year. He made a remarkable comeback after his horrific ankle injury and will be looking to hit the ground running in the new season. With Nani and Young both able to play in his favoured right wing berth, competition for places will be tough and the boss would not have it any other way.
The team now moves onto Chicago where they play their next match at 10pm UK time on Saturday.
You can watch highlights of the game versus Seattle Sounders below:
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Posted by Written Offside at 10:20