PASADENA, Calif. – Manchester United gave the LA Galaxy a clinic on Wednesday night on how to play the beautiful game, and the MLS club was thankful for the lecture.
That’s how head coach Bruce Arena absorbed the humiliating 7-0 loss in a friendly at the Rose Bowl, focusing on the brilliance of the opponent rather than the embarrassing score line and noting that his players received a needed lesson, one they deserved.
It was, he said, an opportunity to see the game as it can be played.
"If [our players] aspire to be top-flight professionals, they see some of the top-flight professionals [with Manchester United] and the way they conduct themselves on the field and speed of play," Arena said in his postgame news conference after the most lopsided defeat in club history. "Our young players and a number of our players still are not quality passers, and so tonight the passing by Man U was quick, it was crisp, it was of quality.
"We have too many players that are technically deficient right now, and that’s something they should learn. And also speed of thought, quickness in moving, winning tackles, running off the ball. All the simple things we frequently talk about, but unless you see it live and in real life, it’s something hard to have a picture of it. And they got a great picture of it tonight."
The Red Devils, in their first preseason game and Louis van Gaal’s debut as manager, were devastatingly sharp, especially newcomer Ander Herrera, who assisted two goals and played roles in five. In addition to Herrera, Arena singled out the performances of Juan Mata and Darren Fletcher in midfield. Galaxy captain Robbie Keane called Herrera "the best player on the pitch, by far."
Manchester United turned three mistakes into goals in the first half, two in the final minutes before the break, and the game was over.
"You see players doing stuff that you talk about every day: move the ball quickly, put people in [scoring positions] very quickly," Keane said. "… [Taking advantage of mistakes] is the difference between top teams and top players. They showed that as soon as you have an opportunity to punish [your opponent], you have to take that one.
"Hopefully, that will be the lesson to the younger players, to see these players first-hand, to see that when you do punish people, you actually, genuinely punish them, and you kill them in the end. That was the case tonight. They killed us in the end."
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Landon Donovan said the match provided a "learning experience for your career, as a player."
He said and that if LA had managed, say, a 1-1 draw in a tough game – they’d tied three of their previous four friendlies against English clubs – then perhaps they wouldn’t take away the same lessons.
"You see what happens at a higher level," Donovan said, "and so everything happens a second or two faster – speed of thought, the speed of play, the way they move, the way they react to things, technically, tactically, all those things.
"You hope when you come out of a game, especially young guys can walk away not saying, ‘Oh my god, they were so amazing,’ but, ‘They do all the little things right, and how can I get better individually.’”