Date:Saturday July 18 2009
It wasn't an exactly spectacular start to the new season, was it? United, their nerves perhaps somewhat frayed by the news of the Jakarta bomb attack, looked lacklustre and uninspiring against a lively Malaysian XI but scraped a 3-2 win.
It was a typical pre-season game, to be honest. United lacked focus, concentration, commitment, the players looked a bit disorientated and sluggish. We haven't learnt much from this game, that's for sure - I merely saw a few things which we knew anyway.
What am I talking about? Well, like the fact that Darron Gibson is not a winger. He was as ineffective as always when asked to play on the right side of the midfield and his influence grew astoundingly when moved to the centre of the park after taking off Scholes. The ginger maestro himself had a pretty poor game: he made too many rash tackles and surrendered possession too often too easily.
His midfield colleague Anderson was full of energy and enthusiasm but his passing was wayward and his positioning left a lot to be desired on occasions. Nani had one of his better games, clinically tucking away his only real chance but he didn't light up the pitch.
By and large we were okay at the back throughout - Wes Brown and Fabio both slotted in seamlessly when called upon while Evra, Rio, Evans and O'Shea did their job with the usual reliability. However, Edwin van der Sar was at fault for the first goal and substitute Ben Foster committed an absolutely horrible mistake, letting a backpass slip under his feet, thus gifting the Malaysians the equaliser.
However, United's best performers were to be found up front: Berbatov was average even though he showed a few nice touches but Wayne Rooney was the best player on the pitch by a country mile, relishing the freedom allowed to him in the hole behind the Bulgarian. He scored our scrappy first then his absolutely brilliant pass found Nani in front of goal and the winger made no mistake.
Yet someone else stole the show from him in the end: Michael Owen came and conquered today. I was pleasantly surprised with his performance: I expected commitment - after all, he's got a lot to prove - but didn't expect such a good display. He was always available, looking for the ball, moving a lot between the defenders, confusing and stretching them. His winner was a cool and clinical finish after a bad defensive cock-up - hopefully the first of many goals in the United shirt. I just wish it weren't the number seven shirt...
So, that's it. It's a shame we didn't get to see Valencia and that we won't see Obertan till October but you can't have everything. It was a good solid win to open pre-season and it was good enough to whet the appetite. I have realised how much I'm missing football and can't wait to the real competitions to start now.
Date:Saturday July 18 2009
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