Amazulu vs. Manchester United: 10 Things We'd Like to See in Reds' Friendly
Let's hope there is a full house at Moses Mabhida Stadium when Manchester United play Amazulu FC at 8 p.m. Durban time on Wednesday, July 18.
Why shouldn't there be?
Although United are far from a full-strength squad, there will be plenty of interest factors and cameos to look forward to.
We've reviewed the squad elsewhere, but here are some of the things we'd like to see in this, United's first football outing since last season's anticlimax.
Chicharito & Macheda Back to Their Best
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These are two of the most naturally gifted finishers Sir Alex has ever managed.
Javier Hernadez (Chicharito) was a breath of fresh air when he was signed out of nowhere two years ago. The whole of English football was buzzing about him by the end of his first season.
Unfortunately, due mainly to injuries, he seemed to suffer from "second-season syndrome" last year. He made 22 starts and 14 substitute appearances for 12 goals, compared to 20 from 27 and 18 the season before.
The number of offsides against him may have been an indication of his desperation to shine, or it might be that the opposition had sussed out the "kick and rush" strategy to break high defences.
Whatever the case, with him missing the Olympics, we can expect him back fully fit and determined to nail down the third striker role.
Unless United sign Lewandowski or one of the other strikers bandied around, there is definitely a chance for Federicho Macheda to secure one of the four striking roles that Sir Alex has said are necessary ever since the days of Yorke and Cole, Sheringham and Solskjaer.
It seems certain that Will Keane would have been in pole position for fourth striker but for his serious knee injury. Macheda has been described by Sir Alex as "an exceptional talent" (via The Independent):
He is one we have to keep a foot on. He has got a cocky arrogance about him. He will argue with players in a training session and he will compete for his ego. But he's only 18, he's not 19 until October and we keep forgetting that.
He is an exceptional talent and he is tough. He does not get bullied in games. He gives as good as he gets. Cesare Prandelli [the new Italian coach] has spoken to our staff about him so he is aware of his ability.
He became an instant folk hero when he scored the winner against Aston Villa three years ago that won United the title.
This is a big season for him, starting on Wednesday. With Berbatov probably in the shop window, this could be Macheda's chance to prove he should not go out on loan again.
Kagawa & Powell Scrapping for No. 10
Nick Powell may be a few years, top-level appearances and goals behind Shinji Kagawa, but he has the attitude and determination to make it a fight for midfield in the coming season.
They may be worlds apart in their background, but Powell has shown brief hints for Crewe that he is a talent in the making.
They are different physically and in style, but both would prefer to play in the middle and ideally behind the striker in the hole.
In order to catch Sir Alex's eye, they will need to demonstrate much more than this.
Neither has been credited with great tackling ability. That will have to change. United defend from the front.
Kagawa has already shown he can score goals, with 86 goals from 198 matches at club level and 11 from 33 for the Japanese national side.
Powell scored a cracker for Crewe Alexandra in the League Two playoff final, gifting them the legacy of promotion as he moved on to higher things. As he left, the incomparable Dario Gradi described him as "a unique talent."
Ando's Return—Yet Again
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Anderson was being compared to Ronaldinho when he was younger.
He is a fun guy who keeps the dressing room in stitches, but it's time to get serious.
There have been far too many stories like this about Ferguson being prepared to sell him or use him as a makeweight in transfers.
"Ando" must have been jarred into reality by these stories. When you're being offered in part-exchange for Moura, there's something seriously wrong.
But he's going on tour, and Sir Alex will have given him the hard word. Either way it's make or break for the Brazilian, who should by now have been a first choice for Brazil, let alone Manchester United.
Let's see what you can do, Ando!
If you can bear to wade through the burgeoning talents of Jack Barmby, Mats Daehli and Gyliano Van Velzen, you'll see another rocket of a free-kick by Tyler Blackett.
This is a lad that I spotted in the Academy a couple of seasons ago. He has always looked precocious and can play full-back or centre-back. He is genuinely left-footed.
His promotion to the senior squad for the overseas tour comes as no surprise, even though he's still only just 18.
Thanks to Zeki Fryers' impatience, Blackett gets a deserved chance to grab the No. 3 shirt on tour and suggest he, rather than Leighton Baines or Fabio, is the natural understudy to Patrice Evra.
He is big and strong and heads the ball well. He may be a bit green, but look out for him on Wednesday.
A Chance for the Youngsters to Put Down a Marker
In this video you can see several of United's young stars of the future, including those that are going on tour to South Africa.
Sam Johnstone, Marnick Vermeijl, Ryan Tunnicliffe, Davide Petrucci, Jesse Lingard and Tyler Blackett collectively show why Roman Abramovich has got frustrated with the youth development at Chelsea.
Scott Wootton and Robby Brady don't feature, but Tom Thorpe and Michael Keane would have been on the tour if they hadn't been in the England U19 squad.
Curiously, Sam Johnstone does make it, but that seems to confirm that he will be United's third-choice keeper next season if Ben Amos goes on loan to Hull.
There have been too many articles complaining that the loss of Morrison, Pogba and Fryers means United can't keep their young stars.
The truth of the matter is that United have more up-and-coming talent than at any time since 1992, even though we would rather have kept hold of the latter two.
Watch the Amazulu match, and like Sir Alex, make your own mind up who will make it at Old Trafford. Michael and Will Keane, who don't make it, are certainties for the first team in future seasons.
Is Bebe Worth £7 Million?
Twenty months ago, some of us started to believe that this "rags to riches" story would have a happy ending.
Since then, Bebe has at times been so embarrassing that he ended up with United desperate to sell him before he went on loan to Besiktas last season.
That also was not a happy story.
The player that Sir Alex signed for over £7 million without ever having seen him joined Besiktas in June 2011.
In August 2011 he damaged his cruciate ligament in a Portugal U21 match and did not reappear until March 2012.
He was then dismissed from the squad for breaking a team curfew and returned to Old Trafford in ignominy.
Sir Alex and his team will have impressed on Bebe that this is his last opportunity to fulfill all the belief heaped on him after he played for Portugal's Homeless team.
He will get starts on tour. Let's hope that he shines against Amazulu, for his and Sir Alex's sake.
Berbatov's Silky Skills
Why does everyone always rave about Rooney's goal against City?
Dimitar Berbatov's shirt has been on my back at Old Trafford since he signed for United. This goal, scored with clinical precision against our greatest enemies has been permanently on my screen saver since he scored it.
I'm so sad that he's probably on his way as in my opinion there has never been a more skillful striker for United.
We won't go into the reasons why some fans resent him and he may be on his way. But on Wednesday and later in the tour, you may get the chance to see Berbatov at his best. Watch and enjoy.
Pace & Technical Skill
This vid sums up Manchester United at their best, playing with pace and skill, scoring loads of goals.
Maybe Nani's goal against Everton is the most representative.
OK you're not going to see hardly any of those players on show on Wednesday, but the next generation will know exactly how good they have to be to fill the boots of the stars who were once collectively better than City—and indeed Barcelona.
It may seem like a long hill to climb, but Barca are in transition following Pep's departure; and United would have beaten City out of sight if they hadn't had nine times as many injuries.
The doctrine and belief in playing great football at pace, with skill and able to defend all through the team, will have been implanted into every young player who gets his chance to graduate on this summer's tour.
South Africa and China will give United a chance to express themselves before meeting up with Barcelona yet again.
Assuming he re-signs, you won't get to see Luis Nani until the European leg of the preseason tour.
But he sums up United's attitude to football. It's about entertainment, skill, pace, commitment, belief, work rate and, above all, goals.
You may be surprised to see however, how entertaining this scratch squad may be. Once again, they will be sent out by Sir Alex to win every match—and to enjoy themselves.
OK, every football supporter is partisan, but I don't need to explain to the faithful the thrill and deep joy I get from watching United score from my seat in the Sir Alex Ferguson stand at Old Trafford. You can't bottle or buy the exhilaration from Rooney's overhead against City.
But you can get pretty close watching United on tour from your armchair, which is where I shall be for every minute on Wednesday and the rest of the preseason games.
Amazulu FC and Their World Cup Stadium
Remember the World Cup in South Africa?
This is an insight into what you can expect on Wednesday...the noise...the vuvuzuelas...the passion...and the sheer delight to be entertaining the greatest football club in the world.
Don't be surprised if the 62,000 seater stadium is packed.
It will be a great and slightly daunting experience for United's young squad, captained by Rio Ferdinand.
They, Sir Alex and you will find out who is going to make it, this season and for the rest of their career, at Manchester United.