Sunday, July 26, 2009

Manchester United Asia Tour 2009: Zhejiang Greentown FC, Hangzhou, China

Giggs, Owen star as Man Utd rout Zhejiang Greentown

I can't help myself. I have to admit that I have been keenly following the pre-season tour exploits of the Red Devils. Central to my interest is the performance of Michael Owen. And he has surely not disappointed! From the moment he signed for United, I felt he had found the one of two clubs (the other being Arsenal) that could offer him the opportunity to rediscover himself.

Four goals in four preseason matches makes a lot of difference to a player who has been written off due to the fiasco at Newcastle United. Though one may argue that preseason matches mean nothing and that the Asian teams are inferior, goalscoring builds confidence. Michael Owen now has the confidence in front of goal again. What makes it even more terrifying is the understanding and expectation that his new United team mates will look to present him with opportunities. Ever the gambler, Sir Alex Ferguson looks well satisfied with his bet for the new season.

Berbatov the Cantona-esque artiste - Image from Reuters

Can Owen stay injury-free? - Image from Reuters

The one main worry is the United defence shipping six goals in four games. Something that Fergie will have to look into before the EPL season starts. But United completed their Asia Tour playing some really exciting matches and finished unbeaten. They now go back to Europe and will play in Germany in the Audi Cup tournament friendly. The Audi Cup is a tournament of four clubs - Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Boca Juniors and AC Milan.

I read a report about this last leg of the Manchester United Asia Tour 2009 on Yahoo! News, which I thought, is one of the better and more comprehensive match summary around.

HANGZHOU, China (AFP) – A brace from Michael Owen and a hat-trick from veteran Ryan Giggs helped fire Manchester United to a thumping 8-2 win over Hangzhou Greentown Sunday.

The former Newcastle and England striker, who moved to Old Trafford on a free transfer earlier this month, scored twice in the first half to continue his bright start at his new club. Further goals from the lively Zoran Tosic and Dimitar Berbatov underlined United's dominance as they ran the home side ragged in the first 45 minutes.

United scored four more goals in the second half, including two by Ryan Giggs, as Hangzhou failed to live with their illustrious visitors in a half-full stadium. United enjoyed the bulk of possession in the early minutes but a combination of poor finishing by Berbatov and Paul Scholes and the offside flag denied them early reward. On the rare occasions Hangzhou came forward, they tested United's strong backline, featuring Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans, Patrice Evra and Fabio da Silva.

But on 23 minutes United made their dominance count when Owen, 29, scored from close range following a cross from Nani, seeking to cement his place on the wing after the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid. Berbatov volleyed in from close range after another Nani cross after half an hour and Tosic lashed home into the far corner to make it 3-0 two minutes later.

On 39 minutes Owen, who also netted two goals earlier in the tour, chested the ball down just inside the area and volleyed in after a clever layoff from Berbatov. Wayne Rooney replaced Owen for the second half and Nani got himself on the scoresheet after just four minutes when he beat Han Feng after a backheel from Berbatov.

Ryan Giggs, who was given a rousing reception when he came on as a substitute, made it 6-0 on 62 minutes and scored again eight minutes later. Hangzhou clawed one back when Wang Hongyou headed in from a corner on 77 minutes. Giggs completed his hat-trick on 88 minutes to make it 8-1 but there was still time for another goal from Hangzhou, scored by Valdo.

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has used the tour to test different permutations in attack as he works out his best striking options, which also include teenaged Federico Macheda. Ferguson, who handed Owen the legendary number seven shirt worn by greats such as Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Ronaldo, has backed Owen to score 15 goals in the coming season if the injury-prone player manages 25 games.

United's win in the eastern city of Hangzhou comes after two wins on the Malaysian leg of their tour and a win in South Korea as they build towards a bid for a record fourth consecutive Premier League crown.


wllmhll said...

berbatov was a reminiscence of cantona, wasnt he? flicks galore.

TheFlatBackFour said...

yeah! definitely, maybe he will come into his own this season...

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