Preview: Union vs Manchester United
Philadelphia Union vs. Manchester United at Lincoln Financial Field
Wednesday, July 21, 7:30 p.m. ET; ESPN2, ESPN Deportes
What’s at Stake
Last year’s English Premier League runners-up Manchester United are in Philadelphia for what should be a spirited friendly between the in-form Philadelphia Union and Sir Alex Ferguson’s Red Devils. The exhibition match will help Manchester United prepare for the 2010-11 EPL season while giving Peter Nowak’s Union a chance to get some experience playing some of the world’s best players.
The two clubs have never played each other before, as this is the Union’s first season in Major League Soccer. However, Manchester United have visited Philadelphia twice for matches played at Lincoln Financial Field, against FC Barcelona in 2003 and against Celtic FC in 2005.
Heroes & Villains
Wes Brown vs. Sebastien Le Toux: The long-time Red Devil could be in line for the start against the Union on Wednesday after coming off the bench against Celtic last week. He’ll be up against arguably the most in-form player in all of Major League Soccer in All-Star Le Toux. The Frenchman leads all MLS players in combined goals/assists with an impressive 14 in 12 matches.
Edwin van der Sar vs. Chris Seitz: We could see Polish keeper Tomasz Kuszczak in this one, but if van der Sar starts, it’ll be the battle of the veteran and the rookie. The three-time Dutch World Cup veteran has seen pretty much everything in his 22-year professional career and has shown few signs of slowing, despite turning 40 in October. Seitz, on the other hand, has just broken into the starting scene and has only recently looked settled between the sticks for the Union.
Gabriel Obertan vs. Michael Orozco Fiscal: This should be an interesting battle to follow as the two athletic players will be going at it for a big portion of the match. Obertan is young and crafty and could cause trouble for Orozco Fiscal. Coming off the high from his opening goal against Toronto FC on Saturday, the young American will have to be in top form if he wants to stop this rising Red Devils star.
Philadelphia Union: Regardless of what’s been said to the contrary, the Union want to win this match. Beating a team like Manchester United would do extraordinary things for their confidence as they get set for the second half of the MLS season, so expect Peter Nowak's side to come out pressing in the first half, much the way they did against Celtic last week. The biggest thing the home side have going in their favor is that they are fit and in midseason form and should be able to outrun United to many 50-50-type balls, especially in the later portions of the match. Also, don’t be surprised if a number of Nowak’s young guns get a chance in the match, again like we saw against Celtic.
Manchester United: It’s all about fitness for United. Sir Alex Ferguson wants to see where his players are this early in their preseason campaign, and having most of the starters come out at halftime should be expected. Having said that, it won’t look very good back home in England if United lose to an MLS side, an expansion one at that, so Ferguson will want to control the ball and the tempo of the match, hoping to get the goals with their superior talent, rather than hard work.
He Said It
“It’s been a good time so far. Philadelphia is a great city with great training facilities – some of the best I’ve ever seen. We’ve also had some great training sessions. It’s hot, but it feels good and we are working hard.” — Manchester United defender Wes Brown on being in Philadelphia.
"I think it’ll be a bit more open than the match we saw against Celtic and given the extra seats and higher attendance, both teams will want to put on a show for the crowd. The Union will push Manchester United at every corner trying to find a crack in their armor while United will happily take the pressure and look to quell the attacks whenever they come. The Union though are playing great and could sneak a draw from the match, but the more likely result is a 2-1 win for the Red Devils." — MLSsoccer.com beat writer Shane Evans.