CHICAGO — Manchester United rolled into the Windy City on Thursday in the midst of a summer heat wave strong enough to peel the paint off the Magnificent Mile.
The 100-degree temps were a far cry from the downright balmy conditions the Red Devils thrived in the night before in Seattle, where Sir Alex Ferguson’s crew dismantled the Seattle Sounders 7-0 in the most lopsided result yet of their US tour.
But there’s no mistaking that Chicago’s sultry weather will play at least some part in Manchester United’s matchup against the Chicago Fire in the Herbalife World Football Challenge at Soldier Field on Saturday (5 pm ET; ESPN2, ESPN Deportes), when temperatures are again expected to top out in the 90s, even on the shores of Lake Michigan.
Asked about some potentially oppressive conditions for Saturday’s kickoff during a press conference on Thursday, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson looked quizzically at Fire manager Frank Klopas and took his best guess at an accurate forecast.
“I don’t expect the temperatures to drop,” Ferguson said.
Klopas, a local product who’s likely sweated through enough jerseys and custom-made suits during his years in Chicago, seized the opportunity.
“No, I think we’re gonna turn the heat up a little bit more,” he responded.
And to that Ferguson paused and pondered a second, and fired right back.
“I think,” he said, “I’ll just stay in the hotel then.”
Of course that’s an option, but not a realistic one. A sellout crowd is expected for Saturday’s tilt at Soldier Field and, quite honestly, most will trudge over the hot concrete for miles to see this Manchester United team.
The buzz of their latest US tour was louder than ever on Wednesday night after they pummeled the Sounders, seemingly scoring at will during a stretch in the second half that certainly put things in perspective. Rarely does the final score get so out of hand in friendlies, but if an MLS team opts to give Manchester United an inch, expect them to take a yard.
Well, make that a meter.
“Sometimes you get games like that, where everything you hit goes in the goal,” said striker Michael Owen, who nodded home the first goal of the night in the win. “It was one of those games where we scored on all but one chance, and that chance was one of mine. It was a great display of finishing from the team.”
Said Ferguson: “It was one of those nights when we took all our chances, and we didn’t actually miss many.”
Both Ferguson and Owen, however, also downplayed the lopsided result, and insisted that the win won’t play a part in the team’s preparation against Chicago.
“There’s a lot of experience on our team and we’ve been in situations before where we’ve won by a big number in the previous game,” Owen said. “I think the experience will show that we don’t take anything for granted, and I’m sure it will be a tight game.”