Manchester United's preseason tour of Asia and Australia started off in less-than perfect fashion for new manager David Moyes. Despite playing a number of his stars, Moyes' Red Devils were beaten 1-0 by the Singha All-Star XI and will now head to Sydney desperate to avoid repeating that result.
Not that losing a preseason match to a no-name team is necessarily an issue; it's just not the greatest habit to get into when you're the defending league champions.
Standing in their way will be the A-League All Stars—supposedly the best that the Australian domestic competition has to offer. Well, kind of, anyway.
Like United, the All Stars will be missing several of their biggest players with the likes of Alessandro Del Piero, Emile Heskey and Shinji Ono all pulling out of the team. However, All Stars coach Ange Postecoglou still has a number of solid players at his disposal, which should result in plenty of attacking football from both teams on the night.
Read on for all the need-to-know details, viewing information, preview and more as Manchester United make the trip Down Under to play their second preseason match.
Manchester United vs. A-League All Stars
Date: Saturday, July 20, 2013
Start time: 5:30 a.m. ET (10:30 a.m. British Summer Time)
Venue: ANZ Stadium, Sydney, Australia (capacity 83, 500)
TV Information and Live Stream
According to LiveSoccer TV, coverage of the match will be provided via Fox Soccer Channel and Fox Deportes in the United States.
Alternatively, you can watch the match via a live stream provided by FoxSoccer 2Go or MUTV on Manchester United's official website.
The Tour So Far
Manchester United arrived in Sydney earlier this week to a rousing reception at the airport and have been taking in the wonderful sights of the city since then. They held their first training session on Tuesday at one of the local stadiums and had several thousand people turn up to watch them train.
However, that will having nothing on the training run prepared for Friday night, where over 15,000 people have bought tickets to watch the Red Devils train.
United are likely to fly out of Sydney straight after their fixture on Saturday night (local time) given that they take on Yokohama F-Marinos in Japan on Tuesday.
Hottest Storylines to Watch For
Manchester United Desperate for a Win After Shock Defeat
Funny, and perhaps not all that far off base after the Red Devils slumped to a shock defeat in Thailand. Again, it's hard to see the result mattering too much to United—who are on this trip to boost their fanbase as much as they are to prepare for the season ahead—but Moyes will want that first win to come sooner rather than later, particularly given the pressure he's under in the transfer window.
United have missed out on Thiago Alcantara (sold to Bayern Munich) and appear likely to miss out on Cesc Fabregas as well, after the midfielder confirmed his desire to remain with FC Barcelona, as this BBC report states.
That leaves United without any real purchases this summer and still dealing with the Wayne Rooney transfer saga.
A win would do wonders to help calm the Red Devils a little.
After missing the match in Thailand, Robin van Persie and David de Gea have both arrived for the remainder of the tour and could very well start against the A-League All Stars as a result. That may well be the boost that United need to get their first victory under Moyes.
All Stars Without Their Stars, but Not Their Attack?
As mentioned above, the three marquee players of the A-League—Del Piero, Heskey and Ono—will all miss this fixture. However, that certainly doesn't mean that the home side aren't capable of surprising the Red Devils with quick, counterattacking football and potentially even sneaking a victory.
If it happened in Thailand, it can happen in Australia.
All Stars coach Postecoglou has confirmed that, despite not having their biggest names, his side will play very attacking football—which is what the fans want to see from both teams. He was quoted by ABC as saying:
They're Manchester United. I'm sure even losing in a friendly game will give them extra motivation to do well against us. We want to have a good contest on the night. They're [United] a fantastic team, quality outfit.
People pay good money to come out and watch a good game—we've got to play our part in that. I think from our perspective, if we go out there and just try to play attractive attacking football, it will be a good spectacle for everyone.
Hopefully, the game is just that.
Players to Watch out For
Besart Berisha, A-League All Stars
Of the players listed in the All Stars' team, Brisbane Roar striker Besart Berisha is certainly one to watch for—particularly if he's left one-on-one against one of United's defenders.
The wiry striker loves a challenge and is a very physical and determined player.
In the two years that he's been in the A-League, Berisha has netted 35 goals in 56 appearances. Some of those have been spectacular (like the video shows), while others have been simple clutch goals—such as the penalty he won in the sixth minute of stoppage time to win the A-League Grand Final in 2012.
The 27-year-old Berisha loves a challenge, and given that he'll get one against one of the best teams in the world, he's definitely one to watch out for here.
Robin van Persie, Manchester United
However, as good a striker as Berisha might be, he's nothing compared to the man that every fan on the night will be hoping makes his way on to the field.
Van Persie joined up with the team earlier this week—so there's a good chance he'll take the field at some point in this fixture—and for United fans, that's always a great sign. The Dutchman arguably single-handedly won the Premier League title for the Red Devils last year with 26 goals and eight assists, with some of those goals nothing short of spectacular.
He's the biggest star on tour for United, and he's the one who fans would relish the chance to see live—so watch for him to make an appearance at some point in this one.
Will Manchester United win? You'd have to think so.
Will it matter at all? Not in the slightest.
United's tour to Sydney has already been a huge success given the fan appeal and crowds that they've drawn, and that will again be proved to be true on Saturday night. More fans will be cheering for the Red Devils to win than the All Stars themselves, and we should see Moyes pick up his first win for United.
The All Stars will play attacking football and could probably nab a goal against United, but they don't have the defensive solidity to hold out against the Red Devils.
I'm going with 3-1 to United, but again, I think the scoreline will be secondary.
For Australian fans, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the team they follow every week live, and one that they'll never forget either. They'll be cheering for the Red Devils as much as anyone would at Old Trafford—and that should be more than enough to get them over the line.
Personally, Saturday just can't come soon enough.
Final score: Manchester United 3, A-League All Stars 1
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