The tour is a great opportunity for us mere mortals to finally observe, analyse and generally wax-lyrical about what our new recruits will have to offer in the not too distant future. A chance to speculate on what really matters, who really matters and of course, form new opinions on what lies ahead.
So with that in mind, a breif look at what the pre-season has served up thus far.
I’m sure we’re all in agreement that the Tour 2011 has started with a resounding bang. Considering the teams United are pitted against are (or at least should be) at their mid-season peaks, I’m rather inclined to doff my cap to the Reds’ opening efforts. Of course there will be the dedicated detractors who pay the pre-season no mind and will undoubtedly point at some chasm in class, ability, fitness levels and so on, but the saying goes, “You can only beat what’s been put in front of you.” And my, haven’t the lads done all they can to do exactly that?
If you’re as curious as I, you would by now have perused the MLS website to get a handle on just who Manchester United has dispatched over the last two weeks. I was somewhat wary of celebrating resounding performances just in case the teams were languishing in the “relgation” zone, but was pleased to discover that New England Revolution are currently 7th in the Eastern Confrence, while the Seattle Sounders lie 2nd in the West. And yes, some further research revealed the fact that Seattle and New England overall finished 7th and 16th (out of 18) respectively last term, but why dwell on the past?
The energy, resolve and never say die attitude that I’ve witnessed, bodes well for the season ahead and goes a long way to display many players’ pledge to fight for their place next term. The whistle-stop tour heats up from here on, with matches coming thick and fast – an effort I assume to replicate our busy mid-season – as the Reds will be taking on Chicago Fire (8th in the East) on July 23rd and then on July 27th, the pièce de résistance, the MLS All-Stars.
So far, the tour has answered a pivotal question on many lips when Sir Alex made his Ashley Young swoop – has Young got what it takes to be United player? Young was given the chance to let his football do the talking, and has graciously shown why he is often mentioned as the Premier League’s best winger. Looking hungry, and playing on the verge of having a point to prove, Young has put himself about the pitch at both ends, something I think United has been missing (as a natural ability) in a winger in the last few seasons. Furthermore, Young has given the forwards a taster of the delivery they will receive with him on the pitch. A taste which it seems must be acquired as we haven’t been used to that kind of service regularly, dare I say, since the Beckham days. The pacy winger certainly has a role to play at his new club and already looks like he’s fitting in nicely.
The rest of the squad looks almost surprisingly fighting fit and ready for all that lies ahead… I hope I haven’t just jinxed it all. The goals have been flowing in 2 impressive, vintage United performances in which the team has come alive in the second half winning 4-1 in the opener against New England and following that with the 7-0 drubbing of Seattle Sounders. There is an obvious focus on our strengths going forward after a composed Rooney hat-trick against Seattle. With Diouf and Obertan getting in on the action in the same game, not to mention Owen and Park adding to their tallies from the previous match, and Macheda looking like a new signing, United are, as always, sure to serve up some mouth-watering, goal-mouth entertainment.
I guess the jury is still out on how good the MLS actually is and we can only hope that the All-Star Game will give us a slightly better indication of the best America has to offer. In any case, after a season that came to an anti-climatic slump in Wembley against Barcelona, United can look forward to every moment of every pre-season match, no matter how much of a morale booster it may seem, before the next showcase at the end of the month… against Barcelona.
I love most American sports and think the All-Star Weekend is one of the best ideas EVER. Do you think it could ever translate over here? Imagine the possibilities – penalty competition, crossbar challenge, showboat and tricks showcase and more! Then at the end of the weekend, North vs South! Discuss it with me @rizotoo