PHILADELPHIA – It has to be up there with winning the Super Bowl. Or hitting a hole-in-one at St. Andrews.
Beating English Premier League club Manchester United is no easy task.
In fact, in their last 114 league matches, Sir Alex Ferguson’s boys have lost only 16 times. Not a bad track record by anyone’s standards.
The Philadelphia Union will take a crack at Manchester United on Wednesday night at Lincoln Financial Field at 7:30 p.m. ET (TV: ESPN2, ESPN Deportes).
So how does a team like the Union, an expansion team near the bottom of the table in MLS, a brand new club with a four-game-old stadium, accomplish this near impossible task against one of, if not the most storied club in the world?
“I think we can’t get away from the things we do well,” Union striker Alejandro Moreno said this week. “We know we’re dynamic going forward and have lots of interchange and players that are capable of being dangerous. We also have to be organized defensively. If we make mistakes, they will certainly punish us. Basically, we have to be very solid in everything we do.”
Granted, the Red Devils are in their preseason and the main concern for them is preparing for the upcoming EPL season and not getting injured. The result isn’t exactly the top priority.
Union manager Peter Nowak echoed this sentiment, but highlighted what both sides can ultimately take from the match.
“I would say that, like Sir Alex said, it’s more about what’s behind the whole game,” Nowak said. “For Manchester United coming in here on their preseason, it’s not an easy thing with [these hot] weather conditions. It’s always difficult to find their rhythm. For us, we continue to grow as a team and try to find the right formula. Lately, it’s all about continuing to progress and gain experience that we can use in the second half of the season.”
Moreno agreed. The attention drawn to the young club by playing a massive opponent like the 18-time English league champions is the real result, he said.
“While the result may be important to some, I think for the us, the overall experience and what comes after the game are important,” Moreno said. “Getting some of the people who will come to watch Manchester United to come and back their own team. I think that’s the bigger picture for us.”
For Union captain Danny Califf, the bigger-picture stuff is important. But he is a competitor, and competitors always have the motivation to win.
“I’ve never stepped on the field to lose, and I don’t plan on stepping on the field to do anything but win on Wednesday night, regardless of who it is,” Califf said. “Whether it’s the best national team in the world or the best club team in the world, it doesn’t really matter.”