Friday, July 22, 2011
Man U off to hot start in U.S. tour
By Charlie Corr
Manchester United and the Chicago Fire will have to battle through some harsh elements on Saturday in their World Football Challenge match at Soldier Field (4 p.m., ESPN2).
Temperatures are expected to be in the upper 80s at the kickoff, with a head index in the mid-90s.
"We've come from a nice cool atmosphere in Seattle to a furnace," Man U manager Sir Alex Ferguson said. "So it's going to be a test for the players, for both sides. ... We'll have to make appropriate changes -- probably quite a few -- at halftime and some early in the second half."
Man U already has posted two dominant wins during its U.S. tour, most recently crushing MLS side Seattle Sounders FC, 7-0, on Wednesday.
"We've been in situations before where we've won by a big number in a previous game, and I think the experience will show that we don't take anything for granted," Man U forward Michael Owen said. "I'm sure it'll be a tight game. Sometimes you get games like that where everything you hit goes in the goal, and sometimes you create lots and lots of chances and you can't score."
Mame Biram Diouf gave the Red Devils a 2-0 cushion, and then star forward Wayne Rooney netted three of Man U's next four goals in a span of 21 minutes en route to the rout of Seattle.
"When we scored the second goal and we kept attacking, it just opened the gate for us," Ferguson said. "Most of our goals were on the counter attack. I think it was a harsh reflection on the game for Seattle. I think you have to dismiss that one, really. It's just one of those nights where we took all of our chances. We didn't really actually miss many, apart from Michael."
Owen did tally the game's first goal in the 15th minute after the Sounders had out-shot the Red Devils, 6-0, on the first half. He also had the Red Devils' first goal during their 4-1 win over the New England Revolution in World Football Challenge play on July 13.
Heading into the weekend, the MLS sides have posted a 0-3-0 record in the World Football Challenge, with New England falling to Man U, the Los Angeles Galaxy dropping a match to Real Madrid, and the Vancouver Whitecaps losing to Manchester City.
It goes without saying that Man U is the heavy favorite against the Fire. For the 69-year-old Red Devils manager, Ferguson's vigor toward the team's preparation is unyielding.
"The expectation of United puts a certain demand on you and the players," Ferguson said. "We're not short of that knowledge and what we have to achieve at the club. It's very easy for me to be motivated because of having that expectation. Being at the club and the players I've got keep me enthusiastic."
Park mulling over contract offer: Ferguson said Thursday that Man U has placed a two-year contract offer on the table to midfielder Park Ji-Sung. The ball is now in the South Korean midfielder's court, and Ferguson expects him to sign.
"I'm sure he'll sign it," Ferguson said. "His career at United has been nothing but excellent. He's a tremendous professional, and I'm sure he'll accept the new offer and tie himself down at the club for the next two years."