NEW YORK — MLS All-Star manager Hans Backe has a great deal riding on this match against Manchester United on Wednesday. Specifically, an unblemished record against the Red Devils.
When he served as assistant to Sven-Göran Eriksson at Manchester City in the 2007-08 campaign, Backe helped coach the Citizens to a historic double against their crosstown rivals.
“For the first time I think in 34 years, Man. City won the double,” Backe said on Monday in reference to the two wins in a single EPL season. “Very happy fans. They made their own DVD last year of those games. It’s six points and a goal difference of 3-1. Hopefully I don’t like to lose those stats.”
On August 19, 2007, a Geovanni goal was enough for a 1-0 Manchester City home win. Later in the season, on February 10, 2008, Darius Vassell and Benjani Mwaruwari staked Manchester City to a 2-0 lead before Michael Carrick pulled one back at Old Trafford with a late goal in garbage time.
Backe is hoping for the same magic on Wednesday night, but he’ll have to do it with only one practice session on Tuesday at Red Bull Arena. The Swedish coach of the New York Red Bulls has opted to close that practice to the media.
“We can work with some basic tactics to make it as simple as possible for the game on Wednesday,” Backe said. “Everyone knows the game with these players but we just want to figure out basic attacking and defending. … It’s only session with these guys but they’re experienced guys.”
The All-Stars will be missing the experience of LA Galaxy captain Landon Donovan, who is sitting out the match due to a right calf injury and will not be traveling to New York. Although he was unclear about the injury, Backe indicated that the decision to keep Donovan out of the match was taken with LA manager Bruce Arena seven to 10 days ago.
“I decided not to replace him,” Backe said. “We’re already 19 outfield [players], and I’ll try to give everyone some minutes. I don’t like to destroy the game or kill the game doing subs the whole second half. But I will give everyone minutes on Wednesday.”
A win by the 22-man squad that Backe has at his disposal would arguably go down as the most famous result in All-Star history next to the 1-0 win by the MLS All-Stars against then defending English Premier League champions Chelsea in 2006. Backe, with his 2-0-0 record in tow, is a believer.
“If we have a good day, it’s absolutely a possibility to pick up a good result.”