Manchester United's topsy-turvy preseason continued on Tuesday, as the Red Devils traveled to Stockholm and only managed a draw against AIK, 1-1.
Robin Quaison scored for AIK in the 50th minute, while Angelo Henriquez equalized for United in the 67th.
United should have been prepared for a stiff challenge—AIK are already underway in their league campaign and have gone unbeaten in their last 10 matches, winning eight and drawing two. This was never going to be a cakewalk for the Red Devils.
The game opened to a rather empty stadium, as a number of AIK fans decided to boycott the match. Andy Mitten of The National has more:
In Stockholm. Stadium half full. Been with AIK ultras. They're boycotting match as a) tickets up to 5 times normal b) it's middle of season.— Andy Mitten (@AndyMitten) August 6, 2013
As Marcus Christenson of The Guardian added, the paid attendance was 30,012, which left "almost 20,000 unsold tickets." That's not the sort of turnout Manchester United is accustomed to garnering.
Five minutes into the match, Wilfried Zaha had a chance to give United the lead. Nani squared a pass for the United newcomer, who tried to take the ball on his left foot. That was a mistake, as he squandered a golden opportunity by sending a shot high and wide.
Two minutes later, AIK's Nabil Bahoui had two opportunities go astray, the first a shot in the clear that sailed wide, before his shot from the edge of the box was blocked by Nemanja Vidic.
Martin Mutumba would finally get the game's first shot on frame in the 15th minute, but the AIK man's low attempt was handled by Anders Lindegaard.
Two minutes later, Robin van Persie missed a golden opportunity to give the Red Devils the lead. Zaha sent Rafael into space down the right side and the defender found van Persie down the right side of the box. But the Dutch striker couldn't bury the attempt after working himself free for a shot, curling his effort wide.
In the 20th minute, van Persie again had a brilliant chance to score after a bit of brilliant build-up play from Ryan Giggs, and Nani ended with the striker with the ball on his feet. But his turn-and-shoot attempt was handled expertly by AIK's keeper, Kyriakos Stamatopoulos.
Mutumba nearly set up the game's first goal in the 26th minute, playing a through ball past a sleeping Rafael toward Kennedy Igboananike, who beat the offsides trap. But Lindegaard was again up to the task, saving Igboananike's attempt.
Two minutes later—this game was pretty end-to-end in the early going—van Persie blew another chance to score. This time, Patrice Evra found van Persie in the box with a centering feed, but the striker's shot was saved by Stamatopoulos.
Nani left the match in the 31st minute, clearly hobbled, and was replaced by Henriquez. It was a disappointing end to what had been a very bright start in this match for the winger.
Igboananike would have another go at Lindegaard in the 35th minute, but his tight-angle blast was again handled well by the keeper.
The game would go into the half as a scoreless draw, with both sides representing themselves well in the first 45.
The second half started off about as poorly as United could have hoped for, however.
In the 50th minute, AIK took the lead, as Quaison curled an absolute beauty into the top corner from 20 yards out. A nifty touch from Alhassan Kamara put Quaison on the ball, and with space to operate he evaded Vidic and let fly a picturesque score.
Three minutes later, Jonny Evans had to be subbed off as he limped off the pitch. Suffering two injuries and being a goal down probably was not the way the Red Devils envisioned this match going.
United nearly equalized in the 54th minute, but Vidic's header off a Giggs corner hit the ground before bouncing up and hitting over the bar, careening over. United were inches away from leveling.
And two minutes later, AIK were inches away from doubling their lead. Nabil Bahoui lined up for a free kick and sent a rocket to the top corner that beat second-half substitute Ben Amos but went wide by the smallest of margins.
But in the 67th minute, United would get their equalizer.
Van Persie's free kick would strike the wall, but Michael Carrick collected it and found Zaha out wide. The exciting youngster then whipped a low cross into the box, which Henriquez easily tapped home at the back post to level things up.
Van Persie's struggles continued in the 77th minute, as Giggs curled a beautiful corner into the box that found the Dutch striker, but his free header on the near post went just wide.
United continued to press down the stretch, desperately seeking a winner, but the team would leave several promising opportunities on the table and the game would end in a 1-1 draw.
Men of the Match: Kyriakos Stamatopoulos and Patrik Carlgren, AIK
The two keepers for AIK were rather brilliant in this contest, snuffing out several United entreaties and standing tall when the Red Devils managed to put the ball on net. It was a cracking performance against last year's most dangerous Premier League offense.
Sticking with AIK, Mutumba was a real danger throughout and gave United headaches every time he was on the ball, while Quaison's goal was obviously the moment of the match.
For United, Nani was effective in the first 30 minutes before leaving with an injury, while Zaha continued his strong preseason, earning an assist and giving the AIK defense trouble on the wing all game long.
Bebe also offered a spark once he entered the match late on. United found space on the wing and certainly exploited it in this match, but the finishing was pretty criminal.
Dishonorable Mention: Robin van Persie, Manchester United
It was a real stinker of a performance from the United striker, whose finishing was pretty criminal in this contest. Normally as clinical as they come, van Persie looked just a bit off in this one.
Manchester United next play Sevilla in the Rio Ferdinand Testimonial on Aug. 9, before facing Wigan in the Community Shield on Aug. 11.