BOSTON — Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson sounded a cautionary note as the English Premier League champions prepare for their Herbalife World Football Challenge opener against New England on Wednesday night (8 pm ET; ESPN2, ESPN Deportes).
Last year's trip to the United States — and a 2-1 defeat to the club now known as Sporting Kansas City, in particular — showed Ferguson that his players must take the proper approach to this affair in order to start their five-match tour off with the expected result.
“As we experienced last season and with the rise in United States soccer, we're expecting a difficult game,” Ferguson told MLSsoccer.com during a press conference held on Monday afternoon. “Last season, all of the games were very, very tough. We look forward to it. We hope we do ourselves justice, but, most important, we hope that we take a step forward in terms of our fitness, which is one of the reasons why we are here.”
While United must focus on their preseason preparations as they work toward full match fitness, the Revolution can approach this match as a valuable opportunity to play against one of the top sides in the world and secure a dose of confidence heading into Sunday's crucial league match against Philadelphia.
“For us, we're looking forward to the game immensely,” Revolution coach Steve Nicol said. “I know the players are. It will be a great experience for them to play against one of the best teams on the planet and some of the best players on the planet.”
United will look to start the acclimation process for a few of their new players — Ferguson has named a strong squad that includes summer signings David de Gea, Phil Jones and Ashley Young among the familiar names like Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney — and work their way into match form with their quest to retain the EPL title set to start next month.
“It's our first game and it doesn't seem so long ago that we played in the European final,” Ferguson said. “The players should be well-rested, but our preparation isn't 100 percent at the moment because we only started on the fourth of July with medical testing and then training since then.”
Although the Red Devils may lack its usual midseason sharpness in their first outing, Nicol said he expects they will offer a stern test for his side in front of a bumper crowd at Gillette Stadium.
“It should be a great experience for our guys,” Nicol said. “Hopefully, we can do well and that will give us some confidence to take into the rest of the season.”