Manchester United beat a Malaysia XI for the second time in three days, with Michael Owen scoring once again in a 2-0 win. Despite today’s scheduled match in Indonesia being cancelled after Saturday’s Jakarta bombings, nothing it seems will stop United’s Asian money-making tour, which is set to earn the club more than $12 million.
It is a long time since any of United’s pre-season programme wasn’t about building new markets or the Reds’ brand. Indeed, the bandwagon rolls on to Ji-Sung Park loving South Korea for a match against FC Seoul on Friday, followed by a trip to China on Sunday. And in recent seasons United have played not only in Asia, but Africa and America too. Little about those tours have prepared United’s players for matches against Europe’s finest.
But there is football amongst the marketing, with United fans wondering how the club’s new signings Antonio Valencia, Gabriel Obertan and Michael Owen slot into a side now missing of Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo. While Owen is the only new player in the Far East, Valencia and Obertan are expected to join the squad for the matches against Boca Juniors and Bayern Munich or AC Milan in Germany next week.
Fans will be pleased to see Owen scoring twice in as many games, whatever reservations there may be about the Liverpool hero joining the club. With no big money additions to the forward line, the former England international will need to get fit, stay fit, and regain some of his former glories if United are to challenge for an unprecedented fourth Premier League title. Given the player’s injury record it seems like a long shot, despite today’s goal.
Another player to have stolen the limelight in the Far East is Federico Macheda, who also scored against Malaysia today. The Italian, who played for just over an hour, showed some neat touches and took a simple chance early in today’s match. After the match manager Sir Alex Ferguson singled out last season’s Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year for special praise. United fans, who are proud of the young players that make the grade at Old Trafford, already have high expectations of Macheda.
But Owen and Macheda aren’t the the only players to have taken pre-season in their stride. Left-winger Zoran Tošić has also caught the eye in Malaysia, with some direct running and what can only be described as a beautiful left-footed delivery in dead ball situations. The Serbian’s start at Old Trafford has been muted, with just three substitute appearances, but with squad weak on the left side Tošić has an undeniable opportunity to play his way into the team.
The German leg of United’s pre-season will also see the return of Owen Hargreaves, who is desperately needed following the mauling by Barcelona’s midfield in last season’s Champions League final. While the Canadian-born international may not feature in the Audi Cup, he is set to begin training with the first team for the first team in almost a year.
And if Hargreaves doesn’t regain fitness perhaps the club can give him a gig in the Megastore – after all they should be doing a roaring trade.