Federico Macheda ensured that Manchester United began their pre-season tour with a win in Durban on Wednesday evening, against locals Amazulu FC.
The first pre-season game is always one of anticipation, and relief, after what feels like an eternity of an off season. This time around is no different. In fact after the final few minutes of last season it took only minutes to start thinking about the coming season. However, with the addition of Shinji Kagawa to the United squad the excitement was even greater. The boss had indicated that Kagawa would indeed start so there was some disappointment when he began on the bench. The silver lining? A team with a large number of young players given their chance to impress.
The youngsters certainly did impress. The stand out player being Jesse Lingard. Playing in midfield alongside Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick he looked confident and assured on the ball. He showed good strength, and showed that his passing and vision meant that he helped United look very comfortable in the first half.
However, it was young Robbie Brady down the left who created United, and Macheda’s, first chance after two minutes. His lovely faint allowed him to beat his man and play a ball into Macheda. The Italian turned neatly in the box and fired a shot across goal. The ‘keeper got down well but could only parry the ball across the path of Hernandez. Unfortunately Chicha wasn’t as sharp as you may have expected, and couldn’t convert in to an empty net.
From this point on, until the half time whistle, the game settled, and as you would expect United were very comfortable and in complete control. These circumstances are made for Berbatov. Having endured a somewhat hurtful season he took his chance to shine at the head of Uniteds three pronged attack. Showing the classy technique that we know he possesses he gave United an edge going forward.
He may not have gotten on the score sheet himself but Berbatov did have a part to play in Uniteds goal. In the 20th minute he slid a superb ball through to Macheda, splitting the Amazulu defence. With just the ‘keeper to beat Macheda kept his cool to finish, giving his shot just enough weight to put the ball over the line before the defence could get back to clear.
At the other end United had been largely untroubled. Ferdinand took his young and inexperienced defence under his wing, and they were solid. Scott Wootton put in a fine display, knowing when to tackle and when to stand off. His positioning also looked very good. Amazulu did test Lindegaard in the United goal, but the Danish ‘keeper was up to the task.
It was United though who continued to have the best of the chances and looked most likely to score. The half finished after we witnessed some more of Berbatov’s class. A floated corner found the Bulgarian on the edge of the box. He swivelled to catch his volley perfectly and, if not for a fine save, would have scored a memorable goal.
Ferguson made his first change at the break, bringing on Marnick Vermijl for Veseli. Ten minutes later Brady and Macheda made way for Blackett and Anderson. As United had begun to ring the changes the flow and control of the first half was disrupted and the hosts began to find their way in to the game and create some good opportunities. Lindegaard has not had a great deal of football of late but was on form as he made three good saves early in the 2nd half.
Berbatov became less effective during the 2nd half and as United made further changes, Petrucci for Lingard and Tunnicliffe for Scholes, the game begun to fizzle out. Petrucci has been earmarked for a big future at the club and he too impressed when he came on. In fact he had the standout moment of the half when his 20 yard shot clattered the underside of the crossbar and out.
Well, I say standout moment, but perhaps that may have been the moment Kagawa entered the fray. On 80 minutes he emerged from the dug out to rapturous applause from the crowd. The fact that this lead a brief brake in the din of the vuvuzela’s was something to treasure on its own. Unfortunately Kagawa had to stand on the sideline for several minutes before the ball went dead. When it did he came on to a fantastic reception but only had a couple of minutes to show his new fans what he was all about. Probably not going to happen, but when he found himself with the ball at his feet he almost made an immediate impact as he put a through ball for Berbatov. The officials deemed Berbatov to be offside, had they not the Japanese international may well of found himself with an assist. It is just the briefest of tasters of what we can expect from him.
So the match came to a tame finish after quite a dull second half. However, it was very pleasing to see the likes of Lingard, Wootton and Petrucci make an impact. Yes, the opposition may not have been the highest standard but it will give all of the youngsters which featured confidence, which they can build on. Also pleasing is that they have seen an opportunity to show what they can do, and worked hard to cease that opportunity.
Next up is Ajax on Saturday in Cape Town, another chance to see more of our young talent alongside experienced players. Not to mention more of Kagawa and hopefully Nick Powell.
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