Celtic F.C. was a nice appetizer.
The main course should be even better.
For the Philadelphia Union, that means a match against Manchester United Wednesday night (7:30 p.m. ET) at Lincoln Financial Field. The Union ousted Celtic F.C., 1-0, last Wednesday at PPL Park.
But a victory in this match looming against the Red Devils would mean even more.
After all, this is Man U we’re talking about here. This is a club that was founded in 1878. That’s 132 years ago, if you’re counting.
Man U won their third consecutive Barclays Premier League Championship in the 2008-2009 campaign, their 18th overall league title. Manchester United was the first English club to win the European Cup in 1968 and has since won the European Champions League two additional times. The Red Devils were also crowned FIFA Club World Cup Champions in 2008.
“I think this is going to be a good experience for everyone involved,” said Union forward Alejandro Moreno, who appeared at a news conference on Monday at the NovaCare Complex to promote the match. “Certainly, for the younger guys, it’s a chance to appreciate an opportunity that doesn’t come along very often. Not every MLS team gets this opportunity to compete in a game like this. They have to understand what it means and take advantage of it.
“It’s a wonderful experience to enjoy and they have to make the most of it. But it’s also a teaching experience and a learning experience, and that’s the way they have to approach it.”
Union Captain Danny Califf will approach the friendly in a simple manner: playing to win.
That’s his mantra and always has been.
“I think that’s my mindset every time I step on the field, to win,” said Califf. “I think for a lot of the young players, it’s a great situation to play against a side like Manchester United. A lot of the veteran guys like myself have been in these situations before. That being said, you have to go into it with a feeling of keeping your head up and learning how to play in a match like this. If they play great, that’s good. If they don’t, you learn from it. You go in expecting to win and have fun at the same time.”
Union Team Manager Peter Nowak was very relaxed during the news conference, laughing and joking with Red Devils manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
When the match starts on Wednesday, Nowak will surely turn more serious. But he understands how this match can benefit the Union.
“For us, we need to continue to grow as a team and try to find the right formula,” Nowak said. “The team has been bonding very well lately. We’re looking at this as an exercise, a competitive exercise. It’s not about playing chess. It will be more open and it should be a good night for both teams.”
The Union had a great night against Celtic F.C.
A repeat performance against Man U would be even greater.
“Of course, you want to play well,” Califf said. “We’ll learn something about ourselves and take it into the rest of the season. We want to win, especially when you’re playing against some of the best players in the world.”
The Union will return briefly to Lincoln Financial Field Wednesday before returning to PPL Park for the rest of the MLS season.
These chances don’t come around often, as Moreno said.
So capitalizing on this opportunity with a victory would surely be special.