AIK 1 – 1 Manchester United

Angelo Henriques Scored his First Senior Goal for United
Angelo Henriques Scored his First Senior Goal for United

Angelo Henriques Scored his First Senior Goal for United

Due to being on holiday and other stuffs, I’ve missed most of the matches in the pre-season tour but I managed to watch this, the last of the tour, last night and it was a decent game against a side currently midway through their football season (and so fully fit), in good form (unbeaten in their last ten matches) and are well placed to challenge for the Swedish league title.

Nani started for United and looked to be really at it for this one and for half an hour was the best player on the pitch as he terrorised the AIK full-back down the right flank and set up several scoring opportunities for us. Unfortunately, he then suffered a slight groin strain aand had to be substituted which was a real shame because Nani in this kind of mood is a rare treat.

Again, Anderson started and whilst he wasn’t as effective as he was in the first game of the tour that I watched, he still managed to complete the full ninety minutes and was tracking back and tackling right into that ninetieth minute which is a good sign because he’s clearly been working on his fitness – something which has let him down a bit in the past. In fact, he was perhaps our most effective midfield “destroyer” in this game and he put in plenty of excellent tackles – not a side of his game he’s perhaps renown for.

Our defence was made up of a much more familiar looking starting line-up in Rafael, Evans, Vidic and Evra and it was also good to see Vidic make the full ninety minutes although Evans also had to be subbed following a knock.

Generally, the defence worked well but seemed to get themselves into a bit of a muddle for AIK’s goal just after half-time. Vidic and Evans seemed to find themselves hopelessly out of position which opened a path for the AIK player like the parting of the Red Sea. To be fair, Quaison’s goal for AIK was a beautiful curling shot right into the top corner of Ben Amos’ (who had just come on at half-time for Lindegaard) net.

This seemed to spur us on though and we ran AIK ragged for a spell before eventually getting a goal back via Angelo Henriquez who is a player I have not seen much of before.

The jury is still out on him for me. I liked his tenacity and the fact that despite a few offside decisions going against him, he never let his head drop and kept plugging away – his goal (his first for the senior side) was just reward for his endeavour but I think I’d need to see more of him. He’s only 19 but looks much older, is quite a stocky-framed lad and whilst strong, seems to lack pace. He spent some time at Wigan on loan this year but only made four appearances for them (still managed to score a goal, mind).

Along with the likes of Lingard and Januzaj, he seems to be another who Moyes has earmarked for a few first team appearances this season (perhaps in the League Cup or something).

Wilfried Zaha got a good eighty minutes or so before being replaced by Welbeck and once again, he looked a handful and a great attacking threat although I think he needs to learn when he has his man beat and it is time to release the ball – several times he tried his tricks and then tried them again only to either get the ball stuck under his feet or for the defender to simply nick it off him having been given a second chance.

Bebe also came on after around 80 minutes (I thought he’d left United, to be honest) and he’s still a strange one. He took up the left wing position and was afforded acres of space by AIK time and time again and in the last ten minutes must have put in at least as many crosses – at least half of which were very good and caused AIK all kinds of problems. His pace is also undeniable. So, that seems to be Bebe in a nutshell at the moment – incredibly quick and his crossing ability has vastly improved since we first saw him a couple of years ago. His actual footballing ability remains hard to judge though because there wasn’t much of it on display during his ten minute cameo.

All in all, this was a very good game to watch. All our players did well and everyone is clearly eager to impress the new manager and stake their claim in his team for the season which is now just days away.

I can’t help but feel that we still need a big signing in midfield though. Giggs played eighty minutes here alongside Carrick (who seems to be continuing the excellent form he showed last season) and Anderson. Other than those, the only midfield players missing were Kagawa and Cleverley. I would put question marks over four out of those five which really is a worry for a team hoping to challenge for top honours home and abroad this season.

Over to you, David.

Oops, I Did It Again

Jesse Lingard
Jesse Lingard

Jesse Lingard is Enjoying the Tour

Not for the first time in recent years I have shown a complete lack of foresight and planning when choosing a time for my annual family holiday.

For the last five days or so, I’ve been here in Cornwall with limited internet access and definitely no MUTV access so haven’t been able to watch our pre-season friendlies against the A-League All Stars and the Yokohoma F-Marinos.

I did see, however, that we won the first of those 5-1 (with a couple from Welbeck which I felt that he desperately needed) but we lost the second 3-2.

Jesse Lingard seems to be enjoying himself though and has scored three goals in those two matches.

As usual, I keep reminding myself that this is all largely meaningless; that it’s all about getting fit and ready for the season proper but I can’t help but think that we look a million miles away from ready right now.

Last night, I was in The Bowgie Inn (an excellent family pub here in Newquay which is well worth seeking out if ever you’re in the area) and they had the Bayern Munich v Barcelona friendly on which Bayern won 2-0.

Bayern looked so strong and looked ready to win the Champions League all over again this season and, unlike us who are struggling (and largely failing) to overcome fairly mediocre opposition, they made a decent Barca side look quite ordinary.

I know we have some of our big guns still to return and the hope is still there that Moyes might actually be able to tie up deals for a couple of quality players but we seem to have a lot of ground to make up right now if we are to build on last season’s showing.

Still, with just over three weeks left until the season gets underway properly, there’s plenty of time for things to come together.

Singha All Star XI 1 – 0 Manchester United

Anderson Impressed
Anderson Impressed

Anderson Impressed

The 2013 pre-season Tour got underway yesterday against a team made up of the best players in Thailand and, whilst they weren’t up to much, they still proved too much for a pretty toothless United side.

There was something of the inevitable about our failure to score here as RVP hasn’t joined the squad yet, Hernandez hasn’t travelled and Rooney has now returned with a “hamstring injury” meaning that Danny Welbeck was playing as lone striker and given that he only managed two goals in 39 appearances last season, the omens weren’t good.

Moyes put out an interesting starting line-up with Adnan Januzaj given what appeared to be a licence to play wherever he liked. He was ostensibly playing as second striker just behind Welbeck but he was playing right across the width of the pitch. He looks like a very confident young player who was not shy to ask for the ball and kept trying to beat his man at every opportunity.

I don’t think the heat in Bangkok helped us much. Apparently it was 29 degrees and 75 percent humidity when the match kicked off and after just a few minutes of play, every player looked as though they had taken a bath with their kit on – the sweat was pouring off everyone.

Anderson was also given a start and, along with Januzaj, I think he was our best player in the first half. He still goes for those Hollywood passes but he actually managed to pull a few off in this game and his vision helped to create a few decent situations. He still looks a bit tubby but he managed to haul himself around the pitch for over an hour before eventually being replaced by Wilfried Zaha.

By this point we were 1-0 down after Terratep Winothai scored on fifty minutes with a shot that beat Ben Amos at his near post.

Zaha got stuck straight in though and really lit up what had been a fairly dull game. I think we’ll be seeing plenty of him this season.

Overall, this game was about getting back to match fitness and sharpness and the players looked as though they needed it as moves broke down, passes and crosses were overhit and no one really brought their shooting boots.

Plenty of plus points though – Fabio, Buttner, Anderson, Januzaj and Zaha all did well and will all be better for this runout.

The jury is still out on one or two others though and I think Welbeck in particular will have to make another stellar leap in his development if he’s to make any kind of impact this season.

Reds Land in Bangkok

5A3F2049850947E8AFCEC6A91B2AF02BThere hasn’t been an awful lot besides rumour to write about since David Moyes officially became the new United boss just over a week ago but the squad is now in Bangkok in readiness for their first pre-season match against Singha All Star XI in the Rajamangala Stadium on Saturday.

The Tour looks like a grueling schedule to me as the Reds will be playing six matches in total in places such as Bangkok, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong and Sweden but I thought the same about last season’s tour and the players didn’t seem to suffer for it.

The initial squad selected for the tour is:

Goalkeepers: Anders Lindegaard, Ben Amos
Defenders: Rafael, Phil Jones, Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans, Patrice Evra, Alex Büttner, Fabio, Michael Keane
Midfielders: Michael Carrick, Anderson, Tom Cleverley, Ryan Giggs, Wilfried Zaha, Jesse Lingard, Adnan Januzaj
Strikers: Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck

Apparently, RVP and De Gea will be joining the squad in Sydney before our game against the Australian A-League All Stars on 20th July whilst Kagawa will join up prior to the games in Japan which take place on 23rd and 26th July.

Obviously, we will be hoping to see one or two fresh faces amongst the squad before the tour is over, too.

There are, of course, a couple of interesting “new” faces in there already. Zaha now officially joins us from Crystal Palace and it will be interesting to see how he gets on. I suspect we’ll see more of the player that finished his time at Palace so well and less of the player that played for England a few weeks ago – the English shirt appears to be made of Kryptonite at the moment and even Messi would look like a dud were he put one on.

A few of the Reserve team players are in there – Michael Keane, Lingard and Januzaj and this would appear to be a big season for Keane and Lingard as both are now twenty. I hope they get their chance to shine on the tour.

Adnan Januzaj - One to Watch

Adnan Januzaj – One to Watch

Januzaj is a different kettle of fish – just 18 years of age, he won Reserve Player of the Year this year and Fergie has already tipped him to enter that fairly rare group of Reserves who come through and make it into the first team properly. Rumour has it that Barcelona have had their eye on him but the last I heard was that he was going to sign an extension to his contract with us.

I suspect we’ll be seeing Januzaj in at least a couple of the games on the tour and he’s definitely one to watch.

A couple of other “surprise” inclusions are Rooney and Fabio. The situation with Rooney rumbles on and, if rumours are to be believed, he’s going to sign for about five different clubs this summer meaning that he’s going to be a busy boy next season.

Fabio returns from his loan spell at QPR and will be eager to get his Man United career back on track – especially after watching his twin brother Rafael come on leaps and bounds last season to become one of the mainstays in the first team. It looks like Fabio will have his work cut out, though but with Moyes seemingly working on the left-back position, there does now appear to be an opening for a hungry young man to stake a claim.

A few notable exclusions include Nani, Young and Smalling. Officially, all three are still on the comeback trail following injuries sustained last season but the case of Nani would seem to be slightly more complex than that and speculation remains rife that he’ll be on his way out this summer.

All in all, I’m pretty happy with the squad we’re taking out. I would have liked to see us with a new signing or two to take by now but, given the managerial situation, it was always going to be a bit touch and go on that score.

MUTV are screening all the games live and I hope to catch as many of them as possible and will be writing reviews on here.