PHILADELPHIA — It’s not every day Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson openly praises his team’s opposition. On Wednesday night, however, the Philadelphia Union were on the receiving end of some rare compliments.
“I thought they played better than we expected,” Ferguson said. “I think they had two or three decent chances in the match, and our goalkeeper had a couple good saves.
"It’s a bit misleading, their position [in the standings], as they’ve had to play quite a few games on the road before their stadium was ready. The evidence tonight is that they look healthy enough.”
Ferguson said he was impressed by the Union's midfield and that from the opening whistle they gave his team trouble.
“It was the sort of game that we needed,” said the Scot of the tightly contested 1-0 affair. “I think that the Union played really powerful and aggressive. They got to the ball really quickly and made it difficult for us."
Ferguson said he appreciated how the Union gave his team a tough test at this point in the Red Devils' preseason. He signaled out midfielder Andrew Jacobson as one of the top Union performers.
“In the first half, I thought their central midfield players were very good, very aggressive," he said. "They got to the ball really quickly and transferred the ball well to the front players and caused us a bit of a problem. In the second half, [Andrew] Jacobson did really well for them. He got into spaces behind our midfield in front of his striker and they caused us a bit of bother times.”
Returning to Philadelphia for the third time in a decade, Ferguson was also pleased to see so many fans — the announced attendance was 44,213 — show up and support the sport in this country.
“It was good,” Ferguson said of the atmosphere at Lincoln Financial Field. “In the six year spell since we were here before, I think there is more of an appreciation for the game from the fans."