It has been more than a little busy for Sir Alex Ferguson this week, whose squad arrived back in Manchester after a successful tour of the United States. No sooner had the squad checked in at Carrington than it split in two, with seven players and Ferguson heading towards Marseille for a charity match on Tuesday night. Many others will join up with Edwin van der Sar in Amsterdam for the great Dutchman’s testimonial on Wednesday.
Tuesday’s game, which a Manchester United XI lost 8-2 to the home side, was held in aid of former Marseille goalkeeper Pascal Olmeta’s charity “Un sourire, un espoir pour la vie” – a smile, a hope for life. Patrice Evra, Park Ji-Sung, Danny Welbeck, Tom Cleverley, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones started for the visitors, while reserve teenage midfielder Paul Pogba was a second half substitute.
That United’s players were joined by former Red Fabian Barthez, David Ginola and even a local pop-star said much about the relaxed nature of the game, which at best offered Ferguson’s players additional minutes on the park ahead of Sunday’s Community Shield fixture with Manchester City at Wembley. Goals from Cleverley and Welbeck brought United back into the tie at 2-2 before Marseille ran away with the match in the second half; a relaxed Ferguson worried not a jot.
On to Amsterdam then for an afternoon of games in honour of van der Sar, who retired this summer. It promises to be an emotional occasion for the former Ajax goalkeeper, who returns to face the side with which the 40-year-old began his career in 1990. More than 800 games for Ajax, Juventus, Fulham, United and Holland have followed for one of the all-time greats in his position and a gentleman to boot.
van der Sar is staging a unique occasion at the Amsterdam Arena, which comprises not a full match but a series of games. First, van der Sar’s son Joe will play for United Under-13s against Ajax’ age-group team. Then the European Cup winning Ajax side of 1995 takes on Cup of Nations’ champions Holland from 1998. Finally fans will see ‘Edwin’s Dream Team’ take on Ajax in an hour-long encounter.
United first teamers Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Michael Carrick, Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney have joined the party in the Dutch capital, while former Reds Gary Neville and Louis Saha will also be in the team.
“Hopefully it’ll be a great night,” van der Sar told official rag manutd.com.
“It’s a chance for fans to see some top players and some of the current up-and-coming stars for Ajax. It’s 12 years since I left Ajax, so I’m really looking forward to going back and seeing old friends. I’m grateful for their support with the event. This is the perfect way to say goodbye.
“And I’m delighted the manager, Rene [Meulensteen] and the players are coming over for the game. I’d like to thank fans and staff at United for six great years. Hopefully it won’t be too long before I see you again.”
Then on Friday United takes on New York Cosmos at Old Trafford in Paul Scholes’ testimonial. Cosmos is a club without a team, a franchise sans stadium. Little more than a badge, a marketing ploy, a rich man’s wet dream. For Scholes, all style and substance during a truly wonderful 20 year career at Old Trafford, the opposition is, of course, an oxymoron.
The opposition does possess something United does not though: Eric Cantona. The 45-year-old is not a man, he is… a brand ambassador and Cosmos’ Director of Soccer. Even if the title sounds incongruent it takes nothing away from the five years Cantona gave to United before walking away in 1997. He is remembered, as always, with undying affection by Old Trafford regulars, even if the make-up of the club’s support has changed beyond recognition since the Frenchman’s retirement.
For the expected full-house, whether fans come to pay homage to heroes old or more recent, the occasion will be no disappointment.
On to the real thing then: Sunday’s game with City – billed as a portent for the upcoming season at hype-obsessed Sky – marks the start of 328 days of continuous competitive football, ending with Euro 2012 in Ukraine and Poland. By the end of the coming season United may well be English Champions for a 20th time. Few will bet against it even if Ferguson is unable to land the additional midfielder than so many supporters crave.
Ferguson will likely use the tie as a final warm-up before the Premier League season begins on 14 August. One wonders whether City – the noisy cross-town neighbours – will be a little more circumspect. With genuine pretensions to the title Roberto Mancini’s men, now boasting £38 million Sergio Aguëro in the squad, will surely want to strike the first psychological blow of the season.
15 thoughts on “Reds offer a little charity as season looms large”
Can’t wait for season to start, but 1st, bring on shitty
The reality of our horrific midfield is starting to become apparent to me now the season looms nearer
I’m not looking forward to the City game at all
I expect they will want it more being the smalltime cunts they are, and gradually overwhelm us in midfield like they did in the Cup, and win
Smalltime cunts. Lol.
Come on Sidney, we will buy a MF. Pity this was not all sorted a year or two ago instead of having this last minute scramble/panic.
Keep it very quiet (& forget Barca) but if City have De Jong & Toure & they buy Nasri & play him with Silva we will struggle to get the ball. SAF maybe “Relaxed” but I ain’t.
Don’t worry, we’ll have Joey fkn Barton!
I’ve come round to this idea. Seriously.
The Bitters could put a billion £ of attacking talent on the pitch, and that dull-as-dirt Mancini would still play to defend.
Eventually their Arab owners will realize that they’ve financed the construction of an F1 racer, and put it in the hands of a Limo driver…
He thinks he’s following the Mourinho approach, but he’s not Mourinho… like his brand of football or not but, Mourinhos’ players would die on the pitch, if he asked them to… Mancinis’ players would mutiny first.
They MIGHT still be good enough to challenge for the title this year, but they’ll need to get a proper manager in to make them seriously scary…
Aye, I think we’ll sign Sneijder. But it’s too late for him to play against City
We need him for West Brom tbf. I don’t see why our away form will be any better than last season if we don’t dominate the ball in midfield. Not looking forward to that game either
I think/hope our away form will be miles better this year because Fergie TOLD ‘EM TAE FOOKIN SORT ‘OOT DINYE BE TAKIN NOO FOOKIN STEEK FRUM THEM FILTHY FOOKIN SCUNNERS!
Spot on Sidney. The very poor away record was completely due to lack of control in MF. In my ‘umble opinion the priority is a quality defensive MF -not very popular & eyecatching, I know- but the essentail first step to get MF control.Guardiola & Mourinho actually know something about the game & that has been their first priority. Can you really imagine Sneijder tracking back like Park & putting in blocks & tackles?
Perhaps SAFs memory is going. Has he forgotten we had a truly worldclass MF called Keane & that bloody Canadian was bought to be a “half-Keane”.
Agree Alf. Love the line about “dying” & “mutiny”; spot on. Let’s hope that he signs a 10 year contract.
That’s what Cal thinks as well, and I completely disagree…
Winning the ball back is obviously important, but just as important, is keeping it, and using it well once you have it.
Fist of all, winning the ball back isn’t just about hard tackles… Barcelona have Busquets, as Cal likes to point out, but he’s really only a last man back to protect an ordinary defense… Barcelona win most of their balls back, without hardly ever making a tackle, much further up the pitch… they chase and harass, and never let your midfielders, or defenders have a moments peace… if your midfielders aren’t good enough to cope with that pressure and still use the ball well, then sure as shit, the ball goes backwards to the defense, and defenders are never the greatest at possession football and quick incisive passing… it’s not long before a pass goes awry, and Barca have it back… or the even more frustrating; defense under pressure; back to the keeper; who then just hoofs it up the pitch…
It’s an exercise in futility to try and beat Barcelona, by just accepting they can out pass you, so instead just chase them all over… and HOPE to nick a goal against the run of play… you can’t let Barcelona have it all their own way… you HAVE to make them take care…you have to push them back, and MAKE them afraid of YOUR threat.
You have to defend well of course, but the most important thing, is WHEN you do get the ball, you have to use it with real purpose and threat… that forces Barca to pull their defenders back… instead of playing their usual high line.
You may think Sneijder is not a great defensive midfielder, but he could play in Barcas team, no problem, just like Scholes could… he’s got a lot of energy, and he’ll do his share of chasing… but more importantly, when he’s got the ball, he knows what to do with it.
Of our current main midfielders… Carrick, Anderson, Gibson, Fletcher… Carrick passes and reads the game well, but mostly waits to see a pass that he can intercept… he’s doesn’t make things happen, and he’s never going to dominate the opposition the way Keane did… Anderson, is still just a complete mystery… we’ve all seen what he CAN do, but he just doesn’t do it… fuck knows why… Gibson is just pure fuckin lazy, in my opinion… and Fletcher is the one player who really puts a shift in, but he doesn’t have the world class skills necessary to play at this level.
Barcelona are the best team… everyone knows that, and it’s expected that when you play them, they’ll be heavy favourites… but on the day, they can be beat… but you’ll have to be very good… and you sure as fuck won’t beat them with just tackles an aggression… you’ve got to defend with serious discipline and attack with speed and precision… and most of all… real world class…
That’s my opinion…
Alf, forget competing with Barca; they are a different class; but sure we can learn from them. The first & biggest priority is to win the EPL again.
To say they have an “ordinary defence” is very odd; they conceeded 55 goals in the last two 38 game seasons; that is 0.72 goals a game; find me another team with a much better defensive record. I think that Guardiola & Del Bosque would die laughing if you told them that Busquets was “only a last man to protect” that ordinary defence.
Yes Sneijder would fit well into the Barca team but that is only because he would be protected by Busquets & Keita/Mascerano.
All I am saying is that we need to move forwards -& I do mean forwards- a step at a time & the first step is to buy a decent defensive MF. To make Young a bigger priority was, in my opinion, bloody stupid.
“To say they have an “ordinary defence” is very odd; they conceeded 55 goals in the last two 38 game seasons; that is 0.72 goals a game; find me another team with a much better defensive record.”
First of all… it’s not 55… it’s 45… but that still doesn’t impress me… not in that league… Real are the only team that can realistically give them a game… and even then, only on their best day.
I’d love to see the stats… I bet Valdez is one of the most under worked keepers in Europe.
“Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.”
Sorry Alf, yes 21 +24 does equal 45. Whatever you think Valdes, Alves, Puyol, Pique & Abidal are decent players. I’m sure you are right about Valdez; the reason is pretty obvious, he is protected by Busquets & Mascerano/Keita & the pressing of the rest of the team. But no one could call Barca a defensive team.
I keep repeating,the immediate aim is not to rival Barca but to improve the A-team. That means buying one quality MF; I happen to think that we need two & I am very doubtful about Sneijder.