Over the years, United have involved themselves in a variety of charitable endeavours, from donating superannuated Old Trafford floodlights to Bishop Auckland F.C. to a range of ongoing initiatives in Africa in tandem with UNICEF.
Right now, United are in Boston, Massachusetts at the start of their pre-season tour of the USA and their presence in Beantown signifies yet another sizeable charitable endeavour. Their game against New England Revolution tonight offers long-suffering Bostonians a night off from the undoubted misery they must suffer watching the Red Sox play baseball and will also bring home with considerable force to the owners of NESV (New England Sports Ventures) that there are two major ‘Soccer’ teams wearing red shirts who play in England’s north-west and that NESV bought the wrong one. They must feel like the guy at Decca Records who turned down the chance to sign The Beatles.
No matter, United are in town, the first port of call on a 3-week tour that will see the squad fly on to Seattle for more training before taking on 2 more MLS teams and a MLS All-Star team that will probably include David Beckham, rounding things off with what will undoubtedly be a fairly painful reunion with Barcelona in Washington DC.
So far, the only new kid on the United tour bus is Ashley Young, who joined from Villa and, if I judge his rather cocky personality right, has been waiting for a bigger stage on which he will be able to blossom. Well, now he has the biggest stage English football can offer and I have a feeling that he’s going to thrive out there.
Ashley Young in training
Joining him later in the tour will be our other close-season acquisitions, goalkeeper David De Gea (joining from Athletico Madrid) and defender Phil Jones (making the slightly shorter and less glamorous journey down the M61 from Blackburn) of whom everyone seems to think very highly, but who I’ve never watched particularly closely.
So far, these three – Jones, De Gea and Young - represent United’s summer business in the transfer market, but the ‘marquee’ signing of a major creative midfield force – rumoured to be Inter Milan’s Wesley Sneijder - has yet to happen. With Paul Scholes retiring, Owen Hargreaves released and Darron Gibson (hopefully) on his way, United’s midfield looks short on quality and invention. Fletcher, Carrick and Giggs remain, but none of them (for a variety of reasons) are going to be able to provide what a player like Sneijder can. Let’s hope David Gill can get this one wrapped up before too much longer.
Wesley Sneijder; wanted man…..
The inability to nail down Sneijder before now is a source of some disappointment; another is the absence of most of United’s Academy players from the tour party. Only Sam Johnstone from the F.A. Youth Cup winning team has made it to the States and he’s probably only there because De Gea isn’t (yet).
Of that team, midfielder Ryan Tunnicliffe has already joined Scott Wooton and Nick Ajose at Darren Ferguson’s Peterborough on a season-long loan, though Ajose’s move is permanent. However, I can’t help but feel that the likes of Paul Pogba, Will Keane, Larnell Cole and Ravel Morrison would have profited from such a trip and it would also have demonstrated that Alex Ferguson is not averse to the idea of promoting from within. Instead, they were drafted in to play a fairly meaningless friendly against Curzon Ashton which is unlikely to shed any new light on their talents nor offer them any incentives other than those they can generate themselves. For the record, Morrison scored a beautiful goal against Ashton, which saw him slaloming his way through the defence before sliding the ball home. How much more meaning might that have had for him if he’d been able to do it playing for the first team in a big American stadium?
In fact, the United squad for this tour is actually considerably stronger than that which toured North America last summer. The likes of De Gea, Welbeck, Jones, Smalling and Hernandez have all been involved in summer international tournaments of one kind or another, whilst Antonio Valencia is currently with the Ecuador side at the Copa America in Argentina, though injured and having to watch from the stands, apparently. Still, there have been no World Cup or European Championship distractions this summer, so most of the ‘senior pros’ – Rooney, Berbatov, Ferdinand, Evra, Vidic, Nani – are part of the picture this year. Their presence probably explains why there was no place for the ‘youngsters’ this time around. De Gea, Smalling, Jones, Hernandez and Welbeck are scheduled to join the tour later on, so it will be a formidable squad by the time they line up against Barcelona in Washington in about 3 weeks time. By that point, it’s to be hoped that Wesley Sneijder will be part of Fergie’s plans for the coming season.