Pre-season Winds Down – Community Shield Ahoy!

And before you know it, the Community Shield is next week. The official curtain raiser. Back to battling Chelsea. The brief breath pause after the world cup is over. In fact for pre-season teams it’s been going on for a month already.

Man United have had a typically tough pre-season. I say tough not because we played top teams, because we didn’t. But Ferguson’s strategy in recent years has been to start by playing fitter teams rather than other European giants who are themselves limbering up. And in the US this year, as with Korean or Japanese teams last year, there is no doubt that the team would be put through their paces physically.

This year, it was Celtic at Toronto, followed by Philadelphia Union, Kansas City Wizards, MLS All Stars and finally Chivaz Guadalajara. Followed up by a game in Dublin against the Irish “Airtricity” League 11, before the first showdown of the season with Chelsea.

A quick word on the American teams. We know now that the US are no longer the minnows of International football, and the MLS teams are reflective of their growing strength. They played like good Championship teams – full of running, very direct, and very pacy with a lot of intent. Also, with the MLS running from March/April onwards, the American teams are all mid-season and are well oiled and firing on all cylindars. The games against Kansas City Wizards and Philadelphia Union were both telling. United scored just one goal in each game, and lost 2-1 to a Philadelphia Union who played with 10 men for an hour. United also lost 3-2 to Chivaz, with Chicharito playing and scoring for the Mexican side.

Let’s get the Chicharito excitement out of the way then. 3 goals in 3 pre-season games for a player coming off a world cup campaign is quite heady stuff. But what I like is that he doesn’t hang around for his goals. No last minute stab ins for him. So far his goals have come in 20, 8 and 1 minute of being on the field, with the last one being his first touch of the game. Clearly not a guy who needs to miss a few chances before scoring.

Long term injury concerns have not really gone away. Owen Hargreaves continues to suffer. Ferdinand is still out as is Anderson. And things haven’t been made better by stories about Anderson’s horrific car crash or Rooney’s bender. But by and large there’s a large squad of fit players available for the season start, with plenty of youngsters who I spoke about the last time.

The transfer window still has 3 weeks to go, and if the most persistent rumours are to be believed, Wellbeck and Cleverley will go out on loan with possibly a midfield player being brought in. Lassana Diarra and Mesut Ozil have both been in United’s sights, and hopefully one of them will come in to bolster the central midfield which is United’s weakest suite at present.

And the game against Chelsea will surely bring this into sharp contrast. Chelsea have suffered a series of defeats in pre-season, with the latest coming against Hamburg. So it’s fair to say that they are still getting back to full form. But make no mistake, come the weekend and pre-season will be just another historical footnote as the games begin, in earnest.

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