HOUSTON – Fresh off a 2-1 defeat to the Kansas City Wizards, Manchester United met the media here Monday to discuss what most players are considering the toughest challenge yet on their North American tour.
Manchester United face the MLS All-Stars in the MLS All-Star game on Wednesday (8:30 pm, ESPN2) at Reliant Stadium.
“It will be a tough challenge, as there have been five or six meetings with Premiership teams and [the EPL sides have] never beaten them,” veteran midfielder Ryan Giggs said of MLS All-Stars.
While the MLS All-Stars have dispatched Chelsea, Fulham, and West Ham United in previous All-Star affairs, a tie last year against Everton resulted in MLS falling on penalty kicks. As a result, United are hoping to carry the mantle for their Premier League brethren and win in regulation.
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, however, will have to balance that goal with managing his players’ health.
“We have one or two injury situations at the moment and it is difficult because it is probably the most important game that we will play in this tour,” Ferguson said. “But we have to safeguard our players long term, and the view is to come out of this tour with everyone with some game time, but clear of injury.”
The team’s newest acquisition, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, looks set to be handed his United debut. After his two goals in the World Cup, Ferguson was happy to have secured the young forwards services prior to the tournament.
“We would like to use him for part of the game, as there is a large Mexican population in Houston that would be excited to see him, and we want to try to integrate him as quickly as possible [into our team],” Ferguson said. “But we want to have a chat with him first and see where he is physically.”
Regardless of how the young forward will be used, Ferguson is hopeful that his team starts the match out better than the team’s Sunday night loss to the Kansas City Wizards.
“We want to start with guys that are fully fit and prepared to go the distance,” Ferguson said. “I think we also have to think a little tactically for MLS, so we don’t give ourselves a problem starting the game. We didn’t do that yesterday.”
After impressive performances by Philadelphia and Kansas City, United’s players are well aware that they will get the All-Star Team’s best punch on Wednesday.
“When you play for United, every game teams are motivated to beat you,” Giggs said. “We have seen that in the first two games against American teams already, and we don’t expect anything different. We expect a challenge, and that’s what we are used to, and that is what we are excited about. We will be up for the challenge.”