In front of a sold-out crowd of 42,725 Manchester United remained unbeaten on their 2012 pre-season tour after a 1-0 victory over Shanghai Shenhua which secured the Reds their first silverware of the season; the ‘coveted’ Chevrolet China Cup (who needs the Premier League title, eh?)
Shanghai Shenhua, who are midway through their domestic campaign, chose to rest all their stars including former-player-for-every-rival-we-have Nicolas Anelka and international-drama-queen Didier Drogba, preferring instead to start eleven players capable of making sure they stayed goal-side of the ball for 99% of the game.
United sported the same 4-4-1-1 formation seen against Ajax Cape Town, with Kagawa sitting in behind Kiko Macheda. Nick Powell made his first start in midfield, and Michael Carrick partnered Rio Ferdinand in central defence as Scott Wootton dropped to the bench. Ferguson also started Brady and Veseli at left and right back respectively, as they had done against AmaZulu, with the latter playing much better on this occasion.
However, in what was a hard-fought first half, the star of the show was undoubtedly Davide Petrucci who showed his range and vision by providing several defence-splitting balls into the box, one of which should have been finished by Nick Powell from 16 yards out after 22 minutes.
The only other highlight of the first half came after 42 minutes when a surprise break from the Shenhua’s Joel Griffiths, clearly violating team orders by gracing United’s half of the pitch, forced an excellent reaction save from Lindegaard.
After the break, Sir Alex continued to change things up, subbing Bebe, Tunnicliffe and Johnstone on for Petrucci, Powell and Lindegaard. Tunnicliffe ran around with typical vigour and certainly didn’t look out of place, while free-scoring (he’s joint top goal scorer on the tour don’tcha know) Bebe, deployed on the left in this game, unleashed a few wicked drives on goal.
United’s dominance was rewarded in the 67th minute as Bebe drove down the left wing before cutting the ball back into the path of Shinji Kagawa who scored his first goal for the club via a slight deflection. Kagawa’s all round play was superb throughout the match and he thoroughly deserved his well taken finish.
United made three further changes after taking the lead, bringing on Scholes for Anderson, Marnick Vermijl for Veseli and Jesse Lingard for Antonio Valencia. Vermijl again looked a solid option at right back, and Lingard looked lively in midfield, making some great forward runs, and always looking to provide an option to the man with possession.
Manchester United will now fly back to Manchester before departing for the second leg of the tour towards the end of this week. Sir Alex was clearly keen to give plenty of playing time to his young squad, and therefore a tour of three games where a makeshift defence has conceded only a solitary goal, and an unfamiliar midfield/attack has scored in every game can only be a good sign for the progress of these youngsters. Every single player taken on the tour saw some time on the field, and it’s fair to say the likes of Kagawa and Powell have already shown enough potential to excite the fans once the competitive football begins.
The starting eleven can be found here