Manchester United Vs. MLS All-Stars: Identifying the Key Matchups
It has been rumored and in negotiations for several weeks, but Monday it was officially announced: Manchester United will return to play the MLS All-Stars for the second successive season.
After playing the game in front of 70,000 fans at Reliant Stadium in Houston last season, the two teams will have their 2011 matchup at the 25,000 capacity Red Bull Arena, the beautiful $200m soccer-specific stadium that opened in March 2010.
While the voting process for the MLS All-Stars has not yet begun, it's never too early to begin the excitement of speculating over the key matchups to look out for in this game.
And there will be plenty of those to look forward to!
Thierry Henry and Rio Ferdinand
Barring injury, it will be pretty impossible for Thierry Henry not to make the All-Star team. Even if poor form results in the Frenchman not being elected by the fans, commissioner Don Garber will use his power to move the Red Bull striker into the squad for all the extra column inches it will help create.
The former Arsenal star would then get the opportunity to match up against Rio Ferdinand again, the Manchester United defender who has faced Thierry many times in the Premier League, English Cup competitions and internationally over the years.
It will be very interesting viewing to see the two match up again at Thierry's new home.
David Beckham and Paul Scholes
This is a match up that provides a lot of intrigue on a number of different levels.
Beckham and Scholes came through the United youth team together, broke into the United first team as part of "Fergies Fledglings" in the mid-90s, then went on to play hundreds of games together in midfield for both Man United and the England national team.
They have not had many opportunities to face each other since Becks left Manchester for Madrid in 2003, so this would provide the two friends with the chance to do that.
Still beloved by the United fans and looking to prove he can still compete at the highest level, Beckham will be aiming to produce an impressive performance in a game that will have a lot of eyes from overseas on it.
Tim Ream and Dimitar Berbatov
Tim Ream came from nowhere to become a star in 2010.
In his rookie season, he didn't miss a minute of play for the Red Bulls in MLS and competed admirably against international strikers such as Naymar, Adebayor, Del Piero, Bellamy and Robbie Keane before eventually earning an international call-up for the United States.
2011 will be a huge year for him as he looks to avoid the "sophomore slump" and establish himself as a starter for the national team.
If he continues his form, he should secure an easy selection to the All-Star team where he will be given the chance to show what he can do against the star forwards of Manchester United, such as Dimitar Berbatov.
He is already attracting interest from Europe and a strong showing against United at his home stadium in the All-Star game could gain him a lot of extra notoriety.
Landon Donovan and Patrice Evra
Landon has become the face of US soccer and Major League Soccer in recent years and his heroics in the World Cup with the United States, along with his loan to Premier League side Everton, has raised his notoriety globally.
Even the casual sports fans in the States who do not care for soccer know of Landon and will be keeping their eyes on him in this game.
He could be used in numerous roles, but it is likely that he will be directly matching up against United left-back Patrice Evra.
Evra was the French captain at the center of controversy during France's disastrous World Cup in 2010. He has only just earned a recall to the national team and will be looking to impress on every occasion.
This matchup could provide some fireworks.
Dwayne De Rosario and Nani
With the All-Star game technically being an exhibition game, a lot of emphasis is on performance and entertainment rather than the result.
If there are two players on either side with the flamboyant skills to dazzle and amaze the crowd, Portuguese winger Nani and Canadian forward De Rosario are the players to look out for.
Both have the ability to produce moments of magic and spectacular goals and everyone watching the game will be hoping to see plenty of both in this matchup.
Javier Morales and Ryan Giggs
Argentine Morales has established himself as one of the stars of the league since moving to Real Salt Lake in 2007.
It's no coincidence that his arrival at Salt Lake saw the club become one of the strongest in the league, taking the MLS title in 2009.
His quality play has seen him selected in consecutive MLS All-Star games in 2009 and 2010, so it seems likely he will be there again to match up with United legend, Ryan Giggs, in a midfield battle.
Giggs is the most decorated player in Premier League history and fans from around the world will once again be excited to see what United's No. 11 can produce in this matchup.
Juan Agudelo and Nemanja Vidic
There is always a lot of competition among strikers to earn a spot on the MLS All-Star team.
Last season's Golden boot winner Chris Wondolowski, veterans Juan Pablo Angel and Brian Ching plus newcomers Thierry Henry and Diego Chaves, will be among those battling for selection.
But there is another new star that has exploded on the scene, 18-year-old Juan Agudelo.
Agudelo made his professional debut last season and his performances convinced Red Bulls bosses that he was capable of replacing goal-scoring hero Angel who had been the club's leading scorer for the previous four seasons.
Since then, he has made his goal-scoring debut for the United States and notched his second international goal in three caps against Argentina over the weekend.
A lot of hype is surrounding the youngster, and if his form continues, an All-Star matchup against one of the greatest defenders in the world; Manchester United captain Nemenja Vidic, would be a great litmus test to see what this prodigal teenager can do.
John Rooney and Wayne Rooney?
Okay, so it is a massive long shot that John Rooney will make the All-Star team.
The 20-year-old will face a tough task just making the Red Bulls bench this season, barring injuries and international call-ups, so to make the team and play to a level where he earns selection to the All-Star game is unlikely.
That said, the fact that Wayne Rooney will be playing in his younger brother's home stadium will attract plenty of media attention, which means that it is not completely out of the realm of possibility that MLS commissioner Don Garber will find a way for John to be part of the event somehow.
Regardless of whether John deserves to be there or not, it would attract publicity and discussion, which is the All-Star Game's main purpose to the league.