For the second season in a row, Manchester United will be jetting off to America to complete their pre-season tour. After such a successful campaign last year, United have chosen to come back to America and play for the 9 million United fans that North America houses. The last tour bode well for United and ended with a match to celebrate the opening of Guadalajara’s new stadium in Mexico as part of the deal to sign Javier Hernandez from them, a move which stands firmly as one of the best if not the best of the last transfer window. If the Gold Cup is anything to go by, then Javier Hernandez will emerge as the tour MVP after his sizzling form continued with 7 goals in the tournament as he became the second highest scoring player in the tournament ever but it is likely that he will be used sparsely as SAF will worry that the young lad might suffer from burn out. The tour this season, more than most, will be an exciting time for any Manchester United fan, not just those lucky enough to be there to watch it. United have already spent over £50 million so far in the summer transfer period bring in replacement goalkeeper David De Gea, promising young centre-back Phil Jones and winger Ashley Young as SAF looks to replenish the squad that has been depleted by the retirements of Neville, Scholes and Van Der Sar as well as the final goodbye of Owen Hargreaves. The tour will be the first time that we will get to see the squad bonding together ahead of the next campaign and with a season opening fixture against Manchester City in the Community Shield at Wembley, we all hope to be raring to go from the start of the campaign. Don’t know much about the up and coming tour? Have a watch of the official video promoting the tour, a gander at some match previews and indulge in some knowledge surrounding the games United are set to play.
The first opponents for United this time around are New England Revolution, a team who were coached by ex-United Frank Stapleton in their first season in the MLS in 1999. In the last campaign, New England managed to finish a respectable sixth in their conference but only thirteenth overall and they missed out on the play-off’s for the first time since 2002. It should be a good game to ease United into the routine of playing football once more. United legend Denis Irwin has had the chance to look at the opposition:
“They may not have made the best start to the MLS campaign, but I watched them train and they look like a very fit side. They’ll be in the middle of their season whereas this will be our first game so we might be a bit rusty”.
In 2010, they played their opening fixture against Celtic and walked away as 3-1 winners so if history repeats itself again, we will be off to a winning start. It may also be the first time that we get to see De Gea between the posts for United, an extremely exciting prospect. The young goalkeeper has been tipped as the best goalkeeping prospect that Europe has to offer, so we will all be keenly watching his progress through the tournament.
United will have a 1 week break between their first and second fixtures and will most likely be filling sponsorship agreements but considering the distance between Seattle and Boston is over 3,000 miles, they will probably spend most of the time travelling between! They will then play their second game on tour against the Seattle Sounders who will be captained by ex-Premier League goalkeeper Kasey Keller, who is somehow still playing football. Seattle managed to finish a respectful fourth in their conference and sixth overall, meaning they got a place in the play-off’s but eventually lost out to David Beckham’s LA Galaxy on the way. This will be the beginning of a test for the team as they face 4 fixtures in 10 days but what we do know about the US tour is that we will get to see a little bit of everyone. For me, I hope that Tom Cleverley shines like he did in the 2010 tour and gets his chances to step into the first team and prove he has the worth to merit a squad place.
The third match of the tour will come only 3 days later and another 2,000 miles further East in Chicago against home town team Chicago Fire. This will be a re-visit for United after they used the Chicago and Toyota park as a training base before they embarked on their full US tour in 2010. As for Chicago Fire’s form last season, they failed to make the MLS play off’s after a poor campaign saw them finish fourth in their conference and tenth overall, missing out a chance to be involved in the annual event. Chicago Fire owner Andrew Hauptman had a few words to say about the prospect of playing United:
“Bringing United to Chicago helps the Fire continue to expand our reach in one of North America’s premier soccer markets. Our participation in the World Football Challenge gives our players an opportunity to take on one of the most talented clubs on the planet, while galvanizing Chicago’s vast soccer community.”
By the time the third match of the tour comes around, I would hope that the team would start to be enjoying it’s football once again. The tour last year immediately followed the World Cup campaign and players may well have suffered from burn-out quite quickly but this time it should be a bit different (apart from Hernandez, who I think SAF may well choose to use lightly to give him a rest). We should be up and running by the time this fixture comes around and it should set us in good stead for the 2 hardest games to follow.
It was in this fixture last season where United saw the debut of Javier Hernandez and what a debut it was. United stormed out and scored some pretty sublime goals including a great free kick from Darron Gibson and a perfectly placed chip from Javier Hernandez, as well as a fantastic bit of individual skill from Tom Cleverley. This year we will line up against the MLS All-Star team in the Red Bull Arena in New York, a fantastic intimate venue and the place where Thierry Henry plies his trade these days. We will be hoping to see him line up against us as well as our golden boy David Beckham in what should turn out to be a thrilling fixture. SAF is happy to be playing the All-Star team once again and there is no surprise about that, considering we came out 5-2 victors in the last fixture:
“We’re delighted to have been invited to play the MLS All-Star Game for the second year running. Last year’s game was a special occasion in front of a noisy, passionate crowd. Obviously we’ll be looking to repeat the performance and the scoreline.”
What better way to finish off a pre-season tour than facing what seems to be the only thing standing in the way of European glory for the past few years? Indisputably the best team in the world right now, Barcelona have been untouchable in the two European Cup finals we have played against them in 2009 and 2011 and a pre-season victory against them would be the perfect end to what should be a cracking tour. Barcelona and United may choose to set strong teams against each other and this will be anything but a friendly as both teams will want to come out as victors. In a stadium where the capacity sits at a pretty 91,704, this should be an intense match but who would expect anything less between the two best teams in the world? Time and time again, United and Barcelona have shown their domestic dominance and European ferocity over the past few years and this may well be a prelude to the 2012 Champions League final. Forward thinking? Definitely. Do I think it will happen? Yes. Here at The Peoples Person, we will have an exclusive interview with Mike Fontana, an avid MUFC fan who will be attending this game and providing us with an in-depth review and exclusive footage, so make sure you come back and take a read.
So that is the preview for the 2011 Tour of America that Manchester United will be undertaking in just under 2 weeks. It should be a great time for the new United players to bond in the team and hopefully winning can become habitual this year, much like it did in the last campaign as United look to secure their 20th Premier League title in the 20th season of the Premier League.