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Jul 222013

A-League All Stars 1-5 Manchester United
No matter what happens in his career from now on, 20-year-old Jesse Lingard will always be part of the vaunted history of Manchester United football club having scored the first goal of David Moyes‘ tenure as manager before a huge noisy crowd of 83,127 fans. With the game only eleven minutes old, the fleet-footed Warrington whirlwind hoovered up a crisp Tom Cleverley pass following a Danny Welbeck dummy, beating two defenders before firing home. Collectively were United were looking way sharper than they had during last weekend’s 1-0 loss in Bangkok to the Singha All Stars in Moyes’s debut. Lingard’s crisply taken goal relaxed the red devils, and they were the happy recipients of standout performances from Wilfried Zaha and Danny Welbeck.

22 minutes later, Lingard pushed a sweet short effort to Ryan Giggs, whose own weighted pass was casually slammed home off the side of Welbeck’s boot beyond Ante Covic. The anemic A-Leaguers, who were constantly kept on the back foot by the speed of United’s transition game, were simply overwhelmed. the rowdy crowd, as in Bangkok, were mostly clad in United red replica kits and not at all disgruntled about losing.

Still, just as with last weekend’s Thai defeat, United looked ridiculously vulnerable to being turned. Somehow, with Cleverley and Carrick passively retreating before Tom Broich, the Australian journeyman was wise enough to lob a defense-splitting pass over the too casual center back pairing of Rio Ferdinand and Phil Jones. Free and unmarked, their Albanian striker Besart Berisha, once Burnley’s property, picked up the ball, executed a one-two with Bruich before rocketing a shot over Anders Lindegaard’s goal which missed by only a fraction of an inch.

Ferdinand, huffing and puffing, clearly still feeling the effects of his vacation, was pulled at half-time for Michael Keane. Keane was clearly either too awed or intimidated by the occasion, however, and had the ball slipped off his foot by the marauding Berisha, who tapped a slow rolling flick past a flat-footed Anders Lindegaard to make it 2-1.

Two minutes later, the diminutive dynamo restored United’s two-goal cushion with a 25-yard bazooka which flew past new goalie Michael Theo. Then, five minutes later, Robin van Persie arrived like a hurricane. With his first corner, the veteran left-footed striker placed a perfect dish on on a high-rising Welbeck’s head for him to nod home. Then, as a last treat, Van Persie added a single flash of utter casual brilliance. After executing an elbows-out pirouette to make room inside the Aussies’ box to play home a hard-sprinting Anderson; unfortunately, the muscular Brazilian midfielder was too anxious and got caught offside.Still, the tall, ever-determined handsome Nederlander goal machine picked up a pass from Cleverley and missed with a soft shot at Theo. But the loose ball bounced back to him and he fired the fifth goal in the 86th minute.

Both Zaha and Adnan Januzaj showed off some dynamic footwork over the final five minutes, although Januzaj missed a wide-open sitter late on. Master David Moyes mat not have learned anything particularly new in this victory, although Wilfried Zaha looks good and ready to join the wing rotation featuring Valencia and Young. With Moyes’ making a statement at the pre-match Sydney press conference in which he insisted a preference for keeping the erratic, but sometimes brilliant Nani at the club, Andruzaj’s presence in the squad is questionable.

Football is rarely filled with genuine sentimental moments, but the post-match chit-chat with ever-aggressive Australian press saw Ryan Giggs at his most charming. Deftly avoiding their desire for banter about his personal and family life, Giggs raved about the local facilities and improvements since his previous visit. “Would you ever consider playing over here before you retire?” one journo asked.

“The only league for me is the Premier League,” he said boldly, “and my only club ever is Manchester United!”

Ivor Irwin

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