HARRISON, N.J. — Whether it was by coincidence or design, Wayne Rooney emerged from the tunnel at Red Bull Arena a few steps behind the rest of his teammates for Manchester United’s open training session on Tuesday night.
That allowed the hundreds of diehards scattered around the stadium to single out Manchester United’s biggest star with the biggest ovation of the evening.
Rooney, it appeared, was who people came to see – but also the player who drew the most jeers and catcalls whenever a shot of his was stopped or a cross went too high. At one point, a bunch of fans even chanted, “Our Rooney’s better,” a claim that even Red Bulls rookie John Rooney, Wayne’s brother, would probably disagree with.
These were some of the scenes from Manchester United’s final practice before their showdown with the MLS All-Stars on Wednesday night at Red Bull Arena (8:30 pm ET; ESPN2, Galavisión, TSN).
Even though Rooney and the English Premier League giants had an easy workout, everything from stretching to jogging to their scoreless scrimmage at the end of practice drew cheers. Sadly for the fans in attendance, however, the players were not very engaging afterwards. In fact, it seemed only Dominic Monaghan, a staunch Red Devils supporter and an actor best known for his role on the TV show Lost, signed autographs.
Wherever Manchester United go, however, the show follows – and for good reason.
So far during their US tour, Manchester United have wiped the floor with three MLS opponents, defeating New England, Seattle and Chicago by a combined 14-2 margin. The next task for the defending Barclays Premier League champions and UEFA Champions League runner-ups is to beat the MLS All-Stars, a group long on talent but short on chemistry, for the second straight season.
“Every time we play against a [US] team, the first half is really hard for us because they give everything,” said Manchester United’s 22-year-old winger Gabriel Obertan, the only player to stop to talk to the media following the training session. “I think it just gets more physical after that and maybe they need to step it up. But they play really good football.”
Man. United, of course, play really good football too, and have shown to certainly put a lot of stock into how they play in the United States, even though it’s only their preseason. They’re here not to put on a show but to win – and as is often the case, win big.