Union / Union match reports

Another look: Union v United wrap

Matching up against perennial powerhouse Manchester United, the Union showed considerable strength and tactical prowess in their second international friendly. As with Celtic, one can temper their excitement over the fact that any team out for a preseason trot is always going to be at a marked disadvantage.  But, while United was missing all their players who were on World Cup duty, such as Wayne Rooney and Ji-Sung Park, they hardly fielded much of a B squad last night.

With Dimitar Berbatov, Edwin van der Sar, Nani, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Wes Brown, Federico Macheda, Darren Fletcher, Jonathan Evans  and John O’Shea having made the obligatory run up The Rocky Steps the other day, it was only Sir Alex’s selection that could have kept us from seeing a first rate squad for much of the match.

Tomasz Kusczak in goal, Gabriel Obertan on the wing, Tom Cleverly at mid, and Federico Macheda and Danny Welbeck up top were noteworthy understudies given the role of starters.  Cleverly, an England under-21 international who rose through United’s youth system, was the most raw, while the rest have seen significant time on the Prem’s big stage. Even though he disappeared for much of last season, Macheda pulled a Danny Mwanga by scoring netting back to back game winners that ensured Manchester’s last title, and Obertan saw significant time on the wing in the early stages of last year’s campaign and in cup competition.

Mwanga, sure to be in need of a work permit in the UK or perhaps Spain some time in the near future, was quick to put his skills on display, troubling United with a run through the area with multiple defenders in tow.

But thankfully, Nani was no where to be found, for as with many games this season, the Union allowed too many unchecked rushes down the wing. From the whistle, Obertan marched down the field to find Macheda.  A weak push towards goal allowed Coudet to clean up the area on the first occasion.  Equally troubling, yet thankfully not as frequent, was the play of Fabio on the left wing.

While center backs Danny Califf and Jordan Harvey were once again rock solid in their ability to rebuff these many incursions, the fact remains that they shouldn’t be placed in such a position.

After Stefani Miglioranzi rose to prevent Ryan Giggs from picking out an unmarked Macheda, the game took off, with the action becoming very free flowing.

Danny Mwanga, sure to be in need of a work permit in the UK or perhaps Spain some time in the near future, was quick to put his skills on display, troubling United with a run through the area with multiple defenders in tow. Being forced out  of the top right of the box, he fed Le Toux, who United quickly dispossessed.

In the 8th minute, Fabio charged down the wing to find Welbeck, who crossed to Wes Brown, dangerously left all alone past the right post. Having a take on the volley he killed the ball, luckily sending it a few feet wide.

Macheda and Mwanga then tooks turns displaying their threatening potential. Macheda showed a nice piece of skill as he rushed on the Union defense, but an attempted back heel drag at the end came up short and Califf et al held firm.Mwanga followed immediately by giving Fabio fits down the right side.  He slotted to a streaking Moreno who unfortunately shot right into the keeper.

In the 14th minute Eduardo Coudet made his first glaring mistake during his ongoing trial with the Union by mishandling the ball at the touchline and allowing Giggs a second go at a corner kick.  But he made amends soon thereafter, nearly dropping the ball on Le Toux’s head in the 16th; passing from the right side into the area, the ball just missed the charging all-star bound Frenchman, yet still gave Kusczak trouble.

This came on the heels of a rush that saw Le Toux feed Mwanga for a scorcher of shout that seemed bound for the upper left corner; shooting from the right side, Danny struck it beautifully, giving the ball a seemingly perfect arc. Sadly though, it would be one of many chances that saw us come tantalizingly close.

The always active Jordan Harvey brought on more calls of “put him in the national team” as he continued to show great industry, slotting Le Toux for a fine chance broken up at the last second.

While that frustration was furthered by a Mwanga to Le Toux exchange that led to the ball rolling lonely as a cloud through the area, the Union began to put an impressive stamp on the match with fine displays of possession football, with good movement through mid in all directions as players showed a keenness of vision, switching to the opposite side of the field on many occasions.  Fred and Coudet particularly should be applauded in this regard.

In the 25th, a solid run by the Brazilian was answered by a ball that was dropped in perfectly for Danny Welbeck. If it was non-World Cup Wayne Rooney it would have been buried. Lucky for us, it was Danny Welbeck, who followed up shortly thereafter by poorly passing the ball close to goal. Again, thank you Danny Welbeck.

The always active Jordan Harvey brought on more calls of “put him in the national team” as he continued to show great industry, slotting Le Toux for a fine chance broken up at the last second. Harvey’s ensuing pressure, however, kept us on the attack, a feat that’s slowly becoming part and parcel of the Unions play in both league and friendly competition.

Califf’s one major miscue came in the 30th; winning the ball in the air, he headed it short, supplying Welbeck with a glorious opportunity that he drilled wide right.

The back and forth continued as Harvey rushed on net, quizzically electing not to shoot before finding Le Toux whose shot was deflected.  United’s Cleverly seemed set to earn an assist as a thread to Welbeck produced a series of bounces that the latter seemed certain to profit from.  In the 34th it was “Oh Danny Mwanga” time again as Mwanga threatened anew, soon followed by a decent attempt by Jordan Harvey.

Brad Knighton, playing the 1st while Perk stepped in for the 2nd half, ate up a ball dropped in for Welbeck by Fabio from the right. It was merely one of many examples of Knighton benefiting from sound positioning and knowing when to run out to thwart an attack.

Harvey expertly bodied Welbeck off a great through ball on United’s next rush, with the ref just looking on, perhaps telling him with his eyes to man up and except that he was cleanly out-muscled.

After Paul Scholes—playing more of a defensive mid role in the match—got his obligatory yellow card obligations out of the way in the 40th, the Union nearly score following a Moreno pass to Mwanga who was blazing down the middle of the field; Mwanga dished left to Le Toux who put it across the net, just barely missing the right post.

The start of the second half saw the insertion of Nick Zimmerman, Toni Stahl, Amobi Okugo, Kyle Nakazawa, Jack McInerney, along with keeper Brian Perk.  Unfortunately it also saw more dangerous play down the wing from Obertan, whose crossing was well matched by that of Ryan Giggs from the opposite side of the field.

But then Union Jack nearly settled things himself. Of late looking more like a twentysomething than a 17 year old, McInerney struck a nice curving shot just wide of the upper right corner in the 49th. Found by Mwanga on a nice run quickly thereafter, he duplicated Le Toux’s earlier effort of running the ball across the goal to come ever so close.

Great. We subbed out our best starter and they just put in their ‘A’ squad- we’re gonna get killed,’ one crestfallen SoB said. But, much to their credit, the Union did anything but that.

After another fine display of holding onto the ball, Zimmerman, never afraid to fire from range, struck just wide in the 53rd. United could have done better with their chance in the 57th; Giggs found Marcheda in the area and the young Italian poorly chose to back  heel upon reception, hardly allowing for much accuracy.

Mwanga left in the 60th, while United brought on key players Darren Fletcher, Dmitar Berbatov, Jonny Evans, along with Rafael and recent defensive signing-from Fulham- Chris Smalling.

“Great. We subbed out our best starter and they just put in their ‘A’ squad- we’re gonna get killed,” one crestfallen SoB said. But, much to their credit, the Union did anything but that, with Okugo dispossessing well in the attacking third in the 65th, followed by the defense clamping down well on United runs, bringing about more empty pleas to the official when the Red Devils should have known better.

Perk, who, like Knighton, once again showed a solid ability, stretched out to glove aside a troubling bouncing shot from Welbeck resulting from a Berbatov feed.  Shortly thereafter, Califf got on the end of a great Nakazama free kick, with Michael Orozco Fiscal just missing the ball as he  slid towards the back post.

Our attack was broken up, but again we hustled to win  the ball back, yielding a cross from the right side by Fiscal.

We were at our sloppiest around the 69th when Giggs and Welbeck nearly made us pay for back to back turnovers, with Zimmerman taking the eventual outlet to move brilliantly across mid, while sadly lacking support to sustain the rush.

Okugo, soon to make a costly error, possessing well ahead of the area, found Nakazama in the 74th who put a curving shot on goal that was saved just under the crossbar.  The deadlock was broken when Okugo coughed up the ball to a streaking Welbeck, who fed Oberton into the area on a slanting run. Perk came out to meet him, but the ball was quickly dished home just to his left.

It looked like we had the equalizer in the 78th, but McInerney’s rush was whistled off before he tapped home due to contact with defender Jonny Evans. United seemed set to go up 2-0, but Berbatov continued his fine form of coming just a hair away from goal; stepping back and turning on a ball  in the area, he struck into the upper cross bar to have it bounce off the goal line a la England 1966 (that wasn’t a goal either mates).

The recently arrived Andrew Jacobson fired from distance, with McInerney soon following suit, while Perk had to rush out to end an ensuing United rush, and Welbeck continued to trouble.  In the 86th Union Jack worked the ball in deep, with possession maintained by Le Toux with great help again by Harvey.  Our attack was broken up, but again we hustled to win  the ball back, yielding a cross from the right side by Fiscal.

A fantastic rush by trialist Martin Rivas—on for Mwanga—followed. While fans were still rightfully calling for a foul against Rivas, Zimmerman rushed ahead to the end line to cross it to Jacobson as he rushed in on the back post. If not for the defender rushing in on his back heel causing him to lift the ball high, Jacobson who have played hero on our last solid chance of the day.

Photo by Nicolae Stoian

2 Comments

  1. Hey Dan is your program with Greg weekly at 10am on Tuesdays or wedesdays?

  2. Lately, we’ve been aiming to record it on Monday or Tuesday nights, with flexibility around the availability of our guests. It doesn’t air live. We get it posted on the Internet as soon as Greg and the crack KYW staff edit it.

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