Off the back of a 4-1 victory against New England Revolution and a solid week of training in Seattle, United line up against the Seattle Sounders tonight in what should be a much tougher fixture. Going into the game Sounders are mid-season in the MLS and are currently the top team in terms of form in the league, having gone 11 games unbeaten. Former Premier League goalkeeper Kasey Keller will lead out the Sounders in their vibrant green kits tonight and the game should have an electric feel to it. The only thing that was glaring from the starting line-up is the omission of Michael Carrick, who was one of United’s best performers in the first game but maybe SAF is seeing what other options he has in the middle or Michael picked up a knock. Either way, the line-up is strong and the excitement for the game was rising. In his pre-match interview with MUTV, SAF said that the players were sharper and fitter and more ready for the game tonight, also giving praise to the partnership of Macheda and Owen in the first game which might explain why we see the pair start tonight.
United: Lindegaard, Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Nani, Anderson, Giggs, Young; Macheda, Owen
Sounders: Keller, Riley, Parke, Ianni, Gonzalez, Alonso, Friberg, Fernandez, Rosales, Montero, Levesque
This game had all the atmosphere of a real football match with the Century Link Field providing a packed crowd of 67,000 to watch the game. United were donning the new away kit for the first time and I suppose it did look a little better than it did in the megastore (but that isn’t saying much, I still think it is crap). The game kicked off and obviously Sounders had been watching old United videos as Montero tried to score from the half-way line but what was instantly obvious was just how much better Sounders were than New England Revolution; the defence held the pace to keep up with Nani and looked far more organised but United looked a bit sloppy in the early defensive exchanges, inviting danger and pressure high up the pitch which led to Montero having a clear cut opportunity which he fortunately spooned over the bar. United were rattled by the ferocious pace that Sounders started the game with and couldn’t get a foothold in the opening 15 minutes, that is until Michael Owen scored out of nowhere.
A fine overlapping run from Evra and a deliciously whipped ball into the middle meant that Owen couldn’t miss from 3 yards out as he nodded a header in unmarked. That goal was so necessary; United were almost completely on the back foot until that goal and they immediately looked wired after going ahead, pressuring Sounders in much the same fashion as Sounders were doing to them for the opening exchanges and Ashley Young‘s early shot from outside the box nearly caught Keller out soon after. Seattle continued to try to plug the middle to isolate Anderson as he was struggling to maintain the secondary runs of their midfielders but the defence was holding strong and clear cut chances were limited.
United continued to strengthen their foothold of he first half and started playing a crossing game near the 30 minute mark which eventually ended in a couple of great corners from Ashley Young, one of which would of led to Owen’s second goal if it wasn’t for a good reaction save from Keller. Great to see the consistency in the corners from Young, maybe Vidic can get on the end of one today. Nani was also beginning to settle in the game and a gorgeous outside-of-the-boot cross and a cracking header from Macheda was only a lick of paint away from 2-0. A quick counter attack after Young lost possession forced a great double save out of Lindegaard in the 37th minute; Anders is staking his claim confidently in the time he has played on tour so far, SAF definitely has food for thought in the goalkeeping department. A fantastic piece of Giggs genius gave Owen all the time in the world to slot it past Keller for his second but the veteran stood his ground and kept it out; for all the money in my pocket I expected Owen to score that, such is his finishing ability but it mattered not, United went into the half 1-0 up.
I expected a ring of changes for the second half and we weren’t left wanting; Amos came in for Lindegaard, Diouf and Rooney came on for Owen and Berbatov and Giggs came off for Park whereas nearly the whole of the Seattle Sounders team was replaced. On the first mounted attack of the second half from United, we knocked in our second of the game; some great movement from Diouf and a fantastic weighted ball from Nani allowed Mame to round the Sounders keeper and pirouette before slotting home comfortably. That was an accomplished piece of finishing from a player who needs to prove his worth if he isn’t going to be sold in this transfer window.
Like buses, goals came in a pair and Rooney scored soon after. Good movement on the outside gave an easy square ball across to Rooney who didn’t need to take a look up before smashing it up into the top of the net. A great finish and Rooney’s first of the pre-season tour which means that Berbatov now remains the only striker to have not scored on the tour. Seemingly spurred on by the enslaught from United, Sounders pushed forward and a blistering effort forced a wonder save from Amos; the game was well and truly open now.
Now that the the game was secured at 3-0, more substitutions came in the 55th minute as Vidic, Evra and Nani came off for Evans, Fabio and Obertan. Seattle followed suit in the 62nd and made 3 more changes; with the football slowing in chance creation, the substitutions were more exciting. Ashley Young then came off for Carrick soon after and another good performance from Ashley has done his stock no harm with United fans, I know I have been very impressed with what I have seen so far. Noonan came closest for the Sounders in the 67th minute when his half-volley came off the crossbar after Amos got the faintest of touches on it. Then United streaked down the pitch and scored another great goal; a beautifully drifted ball from Carrick, matched only by the square ball from Park to Rooney let him knock it through the legs of the defender into the far left hand corner of the goal. A wonderfully crafted and executed goal that showcased how much sharper United had become since training for a week.
Choo-Choo. The goal train raced into top gear; a pacy run from Obertan and a lovely dummy from Rooney instantly repaid the favour as Park slotted home with a simplistic ease to make it 5-0. The game was falling apart for Sounders as they couldn’t cope with the increased pace that the substitutions were bringing to the United attack. No quicker do I type this than Rooney smashes home his hat-trick. A fantastic first timed finish from an Obertan cross brought goal number 3 in as many minutes. United were in absolute cruise control at this point and looking red hot.
Chances then came in a flurry; a fast counter-attack let Obertan free and after he rounded the defender was just unable to square the ball, Anderson drove a shot over the bar, Diouf couldn’t round the keeper and a fizzing cross by Rooney was headed over the bar by Jonny Evans. It literally could of been 10-0 by this point but it soon became 7-0; Obertan slipped through the defence and the clinical finishing continued as he smashed in a peach of a strike into the heart of the left of the goal. What a free for all this second half has been.`A moment of madness from Amos at the death of the game nearly gave Sounders a consolation goal but it led to Ferdinand worryingly limping away, hoping that isn’t anything serious.
The game ended 7-0 and United looked every part like they had improved dramatically this week. Considering this was the second most in form team in the MLS, we ripped them to shreds; Rooney looked like a man possessed with his second-half hat trick but to single someone out is unfair. Every single player played well tonight in what was a testing fixture in the first 45 minutes. The progression bodes well and the game against Chicago Fire in 3 days should be another test for us as we look to go the pre-season undefeated. Onward and upward.