CHICAGO — Another match, another mission accomplished for Manchester United.
The Red Devils largely stuck to the script in the latest outing of their US tour on Saturday afternoon at a steamy Soldier Field, relying on their stars and an unavoidable second-half surge to power past the Chicago Fire 3-1 in the Herbalife World Football Challenge.
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And as it was in the team’s opening WFC win over the New England Revolution last week and again in an international friendly against the Seattle Sounders on Wednesday, it was names like Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand and Nani who did the damage.
But the Red Devils’ formula could change as the tour heads East, with all eyes now fixed on the MLS All-Star Game at Red Bull Arena on July 27. With three preseason matches now under their belts, expect the stars to see more time and less lineup changes against both the MLS All-Stars and in the marquee WFC game against Barcelona on July 30 at FedEx Field outside Washington, D.C.
“Players are going to have to play 90 minutes, because I don’t think anyone’s done that so far; maybe Ferdinand and Vidic did it in the last game,” Ferguson said. “So we need players to start playing 90 minutes; this caused us problems at the start of last season, we weren’t quite ready for 90 minutes.
“So we need to do that against [the MLS All Stars] and also against Barcelona and against Manchester City in the Community Shield, where we play full games, so that we’re ready when the season starts.”
Hot, Hot Heat
With temperatures soaring into the high 80s and an unforgiving sun blasting the Chicago lakefront, the heat undoubtedly affected both teams on Saturday.
“It was really difficult,” defender Patrice Evra said. “It was really, really hot. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so hot. I think everyone maybe lost some weight in that one.”
Ferguson said after the club’s training session on Friday night he expected the heat to play a factor, and that it would be something the club would have to adapt to after playing in much more temperate conditions against New England and Seattle.
And, as expected, Ferguson gave those who needed it a break from the heat in the second half.
“I was able to use most of our players and in that heat you had to make changes, no way you can ask players to play 90 minutes in that,” Ferguson said. “It was very difficult.”
Catching Up To Barcelona
Manchester United’s decisive loss to fellow WFC competitors Barcelona in May's UEFA Champions League final is still very much a hot-button topic for the Red Devils. And with their matchup against the reigning European champs looming next weekend in the nation’s capital, all eyes are once again will be on whether or not England’s best can catch up to their counterparts from Spain.
“Barcelona have spectacular football, the best football in the world,” Brazilian midfielder Nani said. “But I think we have the conditions to be better in the future.”