FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — In a matter of a little more than 15 minutes, a 0-0 halftime stalemate had turned into a 3-1 lead for Manchester United over the New England Revolution in the opener of the World Football Challenge at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday night.
For Red Devils manager Sir Alex Ferguson, the catalyst was obvious: The game turned on the subs made by the New England Revolution to start the second half. The goalkeeper and back four that started the match for the MLS side made way for an entirely new set of players, with Revs manager Steve Nicol looking ahead to a Sunday home match against the Philadelphia Union.
“In the first half, you could tell they were very competitive,” Ferguson said in the postgame press conference. “What happens when you make changes in a game sometimes you lose that momentum they had in the first half. I thought they did quite well then. I think that the midway point, they weren’t as forceful and powerful as they were in the first half.
“In the second half, when we speeded up the passing, we scored some very good goals through that, so I’m satisfied.”
The final goal — the exclamation mark in the 4-1 win by the English Premier League champs — was the epitome of the passing game Ferguson mentioned. The ball pinged off the feet of Gabriel Obertan, to Ji-Sung Park, to Ryan Giggs and then back to Park for a high-quality goal on which the Revs defense was sliced and diced.
WATCH: Full Match Highlights
Regardless of the highlights, the chief objective for Manchester United in their first of five matches in the United States was to build fitness, and Ferguson believes it was mission accomplished at Gillette Stadium.
“You’re expecting some tiredness to creep in at some point in the game but I thought the fitness looked quite good to me,” Ferguson said. “And we managed to get most of the players some game time, which is the main reason for having preseason games — to make sure that everyone by the end of it has enough game time and has their rhythm and tempo back. These are the types of games that help towards that.”
The Man. United manager and his stars heaped praise on three players in particular: Ashley Young, who was making his first appearance for the club, and forwards Michael Owen and Federico Macheda. Before the slew of substitutions changed the course of the game in the second half, Young was the most impressive player on the field in the first 45 minutes, operating mainly on the left wing.
“He’s settled in well,” forward Wayne Rooney said of Young. “Everyone knows what Ashley is capable of and he’s put in some good crosses tonight. We know what he’s capable of. We’re looking forward to it.”
“The qualities we saw tonight are as we expected,” Ferguson said. “He’s a fantastic crosser of the ball. I think he hit three fantastic crosses in the game. It’s not something we’re used to [with] the way we play, but if we do get used to it, there are goals there. I was very satisfied.”