The MLS All-Stars may be the best soccer players in America, but they were no match for Sir Alex’s Manchester United as the Reds made it four wins from four on this year’s US Tour.
In a compact and cacophonous Red Bull Arena, goals from Anderson, Ji-sung Park, Dimitar Berbatov handed United victory against an MLS side featuring former Premier League stars David Beckham and Thierry Henry.
Few would have believed it a year ago, but Javier Hernandez’s star now shines almost as brightly as Beckham’s or Henry’s in the United States. Hernandez-mania is in full effect: his name adorns more United shirts than any other player’s and even non-football fans recognise his boyish, smiling face.
And although he was never likely to play on tour after competing in the Gold Cup for Mexico in June, supporters at Red Bull Arena were left disappointed after a concussion suffered during training on Tuesday night forced him to spend a night in hospital and watch the game from the comfort of the team’s New Jersey hotel.
The contest Chicharito saw unfold on Wednesday evening was entertaining and often end-to-end. Indeed, despite the final score, the All-Stars created chances of their own, including the first chance of the game when Henry dispossessed Rio Ferdinand near the halfway line before squaring to Omar Bravo in the centre. Bravo advanced towards goal and laid the ball back to Beckham, whose shot spun wide of Anders Lindegaard’s right-hand upright.
The former Reds midfielder sat deep for the All-Stars, pinging long passes and dictating the early play from just in front of the back four. But as the home team’s influence waned, so did Beckham’s and in the second half he was moved to right-back.
It took Sir Alex’s men 18 minutes to test All-Stars goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon. Rooney advanced into the penalty area and slid a low ball across the six-yard box, which Mondragon plucked from the toes of Berbatov.
Both Rooney and Berbatov were heavily involved two minutes later when United took the lead. The pair exchanged three neat passes on the edge of the box to pull the All-Stars defence out of position before Rooney squared for Anderson to side-foot home from 16 yards.
Beckham almost equalised immediately with a curling effort from 30 yards on the counter-attack, which Lindegaard acrobatically tipped over the bar. The Dane then repeated the feat just before the half-hour mark when Brad Davis let fly from similar range, before Rooney drew a smart save from Mondragon when he drove the ball towards the top corner 10 minutes later.
The first-half entertainment wasn’t over. With just four seconds left on the clock, Ji-sung Park snaked past two defenders in the penalty area before lashing left-footed past Mondragon into the far corner. It was his second sublime individual goal of the US Tour and drew a wide grin from the South Korean.
Seven minutes after the interval, the Reds were 3-0 up. This time it was Berbatov’s turn to showcase his talent, as he dinked the ball over advancing substitute goalkeeper Tally Hall before reacting quickly to control the ball with his chest and volley home when it cannoned back off the crossbar.
Sir Alex made a raft of substitutions on 61 minutes to add to the goalkeeper change he made at half-time (Amos for Lindegaard), replacing five of his front six and bringing on Chris Smalling for Rio Ferdinand.
That had the potential to stunt the game’s flow, but Danny Welbeck ensured there was no such lull in action and netted with one of his first touches, rifling home from just outside the penalty area, albeit via the aid of a sizeable deflection off Geoff Cameron.
Goalmouth action did dry up somewhat in the final 20 minutes, although both Beckham and Evra hit the side-netting in the final minutes. By then, though, the crowd had already had their fill. Certainly, after witnessing four goals, many more chances and an array of world football superstars, few went home with any complaints.
United: Lindegaard (Amos 46); Jones, Ferdinand (Smalling 61), Vidic (Diouf 73), Evra; Park (Nani 61), Carrick (Cleverley 61), Anderson (Fabio 73), Young (Welbeck 61); Rooney (Macheda 61), Berbatov (Owen 61)
Glory Glory ManUnited!