Manchester United needed a positive result in its final match in its preseason Asian tour, and that is exactly what it got in a 5-2 win over Kitchee.
In four previous contests, the club had only one win to go with two losses and a draw. The 2-2 final against Cerezo Osaka was only thanks to a late score by Wilfried Zaha to avoid yet another loss.
Although these results do not mean anything over the course of the year, the club needed a strong performance to gain confidence heading into the post-Alex Ferguson era. Fortunately, the Red Devils should be feeling much better after this latest showing.
It did not take long for United to get on the scoreboard in this one. In the 15th minute, Michael Carrick provided a nice lob up for Ashley Young, who took a quick shot that was directed off the post. The ball bounced perfectly to Danny Welbeck, and he fired the ball into the open net.
Analyst Jerrad Peters gives plenty of credit to Carrick for setting up the play:
Welbeck opens the scoring for #MUFC v Kitchee. Really nice ball from Carrick. Young's initial effort hit the post.— Jerrad Peters (@jerradpeters) July 29, 2013
Of course, Welbeck also deserves praise for putting himself in the right spot and finishing strong.
Manchester United then showcased its aerial ability a few moments later as Chris Smalling completed a strong header to give the squad a 2-0 lead in the 21st minute. Tom Cleverley provided the cross on the play, and Smalling put it in a spot where the goalkeeper could not get to it.
However, the most impressive assist of the half arguably came from Wilfried Zaha, who gave a no-look pass to Fabio on the right side of the pitch. The young player then drilled the ball on the ground past the defender and keeper to give his squad a 3-0 lead.
The people at 101GreatGoals.com were fond of the assist:
Zaha with a no look assist. Different gravy!— 101 Great Goals (@101greatgoals) July 29, 2013
The rest of the half represented few opportunities for Kitchee, as the host squad could not retain possession for more than short periods at a time and could not provide quality passes on the offensive end.
After intermission, the English club continued to apply the pressure despite subbing out a number of starters, including Patrice Evra, Ashley Young and Welbeck.
At about minute 49, Alex Buttner was given way too much space on the left side of the net and was able to get an easy cross to Adnan Januzaj, who was barely defended. While the squad should be happy about scoring more goals, this would likely not be available against a tougher opponent.
However, Kitchee refused to simply pack up and call it a day with a four goal deficit. The club finally got onto the scoreboard when Lam Ka Wai produced what might have been the best shot of the day.
The midfielder dribbled the ball up the pitch to just outside the box before firing a left-footed shot into the top-left corner of the net. It was a shot that virtually no goalkeeper in the world could have stopped, and it provided a rare highlight for the Hong Kong team.
A few moments later, though, Kitchee continued its comeback effort with a second goal at the 67-minute mark. Alex Akande made Alex Buttner look silly while beating him in front of the net and getting an easy goal to cut the deficit to 4-2.
Bleacher Report's Vince Sui was one person disappointed in the effort from the defender:
Christ, that is shocking defending from Buttner on that 2nd Kitchee goal. #MUFC— Vince Siu (@theredarmchair) July 29, 2013
Fortunately, United made sure to avoid an embarrassing collapse when Jesse Lingard scored an amazing goal in front of a handful of defenders from outside the box.
Robin van Persie came in as a sub late, although he made little impact in his short time on the pitch.
Kitchee continued trying to score into the final seconds, but they were unable to get a third goal on the board and the match ended 5-2. Despite the loss, it was a quality performance from the home squad and one that should provide hope going forward.
It was also a great moment for the fans to see one of the top clubs in the world. RedMancunian provided a look at the full stadium during the match:
For Manchester United, this was easily the best offensive showing of the preseason. Although the defense still leaves a lot to be desired, there is a lot more faith in the squad after this win than there was a day ago.
Wilfried Zaha: A-
It was clear that Zaha was one of the most talented players on the pitch in this one. He displayed great footwork with the ball and was great at finding teammates in position to make things happen.
While he only contributed the one assist on the day, the pass was a beauty and was one of the highlights of the match.
Who was the most impressive player for Manchester United?
Things will get harder for him in the Premier League, but his play Monday was encouraging.
Adnan Januzaj: A
Although it might be a while before the 18-year-old player earns a regular spot on the first team, Adnan Januzaj provided a great look into the future with his performance in this match.
The midfielder was incredibly active throughout the second half, creating opportunities for himself and others. He was able to score one goal on a header to give his side a 4-0 lead, and he was close to contributing to more on the day.
Based on what he has already shown this summer, it is clear that he is a big part of Manchester United's future.
Alex Buttner: B-
Although he did produce an assist early in the second half, it was his defending that was the most concerning in this one.
On Kitchee's second goal, he looked slow-footed and was beaten by opposing striker Alex Akande in front of the net. The poor defensive effort has been a theme throughout the preseason tour, and Buttner provided one of the best examples of where improvements must be made.
Manchester United has finished its Asian tour, but the preseason continues with a matchup in Stockholm against AIK. The contest will take place on Aug. 6, and it will be the first appearance for Moyes on European soil as manager of the club.
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