Manchester United have landed in my nation of birth, the United States of America, to open their preseason schedule against Major League Soccer’s New England Revolution. The provisional squad has been available for the past few days and now that we know which players will be given the opportunity to display their talents for their American fans, we may now attempt to gauge the importance of such opportunities for United’s fringe players.
The provisional squad, in case you missed it, is as follows:
Goalkeepers: David De Gea, Ben Amos, Sam Johnstone, Anders Lindegaard
Defenders: Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans, Patrice Evra, Phil Jones, Rafael, Fabio
Midfielders: Ashley Young, Michael Carrick, Nani, Anderson, Ryan Giggs, Ji-Sung Park, Tom Cleverley
Forwards: Javier Hernandez, Danny Welbeck, Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov, Michael Owen, Mame Biram Diouf
Sir Alex Ferguson has brought nearly every player he could possibly fit on a Turkish Airways plane to the United States, but two obvious omissions stand out. Both Tomasz Kuszczak and Darron Gibson were left out of the traveling squad, giving rise to the rumour that both are poised to leave Old Trafford for pastures new. This is not altogether shocking as neither player has made much of a case for their continued relevance at the club. Kuszczak’s final performance between the sticks for United was more nervy than a virgin on prom night. Given that Sir Alex has brought in two keepers in the past seven months, combined with the progress of academy talents Amos and Johnstone, it is a matter of time before Kuszcak leaves.
Darron Gibson has been a player that continues to split the support, but truth be told I think most of the faithful are more than comfortable in watching the enigmatic Irish version of Carrick (Carrick-lite) leave for a new club. Gibson never looked absolutely atrocious, but he was rarely in sparkling form. His once deadly shooting, once more like James Bond, became more like Will Farrell in The Other Guys, who for those who have not seen this film, was outfitted with a wooden gun.
I know that some supporters will not take the preseason very seriously, but I find it to be important to the state of the squad. That said, if United were to lose every match on the tour, I would not see that as evidence that we were not contenders for the league. That would be almost as crazy as Mike Summerbee saying something insightful. This tour is one that will be both of magic and mystery for United fans the world over, and especially those lucky fans like myself who live in the US who will get to attend a match.
The player for whom this tour is most important is… can I get a drumroll? … Federico Macheda. The 2010-2011 was in many ways a forgettable season for the young Italian striker, failing to make an impact in the United first team and then had a loan to Sampdoria that was as wasteful as Gigli. As my mate Daniel reminds me whenever Macheda’s name comes up, we all love Kiko, but I am starting to wonder if the management team feels the same way. The Lazio product shone for United on the last tour, in particular the MLS All-Star Game, a match in which United will participate again this summer. Even in the absence of Wayne Rooney due to injury and poor form, Macheda found his way blocked by a resplendent Dimitar Berbatov and prodigal Javier Hernandez. I would imagine that Macheda is on his last legs at United. He is only 19 years old, which bears remembering, and perhaps a Premier League loan would be of great benefit to Macheda. Either way, the lad has much to prove to the boss on this tour.
Much of the mystery surrounding this tour involves the transfer window. Just how open the window is at Old Trafford, though, remains to be seen. Many have argued that it seems like United have for the most part wrapped up their summer business after signing David De Gea, and I would have to count myself among them. I will save the talk about Sneijder/Modric/Nasri for someone else, but I personally do not see United signing any of the three.
What is left to discover is who Sir Alex may sell. The rumours about Berbatov possibly departing for Paris Saint Germain have quieted down and now Tottenham Hotspur looks to be the only club in for the Bulgarian. I hope that Sir Alex hands Berbatov an extension as I think he still has much to offer the squad. Wesley Brown (the hardest man in all of town) and John O’Shea have both left to join Steve Bruce at the Stadium of Light, with the aforementioned Kuszczak and Gibson bound to join them on their way out of Old Trafford. Other than Berbatov, I cannot envision any other player being sold. But that never stops the press or the twitterati from speculating on the futures of Nani, Evans, Evra, and so on.
I will be attending the match in Seattle next week, which will hopefully feature some of the late arrivals like De Gea, Jones, Cleverley, and Welbeck. My excitement about seeing my team play in person for the first time since 2003 is beyond words. All of you who regularly get to attend matches at Old Trafford, you just do not know how lucky you are! To the United States United have come, hoping to begin to manifest their destiny as Champions of England for the 20th time. It all starts Wednesday night. Glory glory.
Follow Charles on Twitter @TheBusbyBoys
Photo Credit: @TriciaRKG of Roy Keane’s Gum, a fantastic United blog in its own right.