Manchester United opened their pre-season tour with a 1-0 victory over South African side AmaZulu FC in Durban, South Africa.
As previewed on RedMancunian.com, the squad contained an unusual amount of youngsters due to the fact that players involved in either the Euros, or Olympics were not considered for inclusion.
As it was, Ferguson handed debuts to Veseli, Vermijl, Brady, Blackett, Lingard, Petrucci, Tunnicliffe and Kagawa over the course of the game as well as a first start for Scott Wootton who had previously seen first team action off the bench during Gary Neville’s testimonial.
United started brightly, sporting an unfamiliar 4-3-1-2 formation, with Berbatov sitting in the hole behind a front two of Kiko Macheda and Javier Hernandez. Sitting deeper than he is perhaps used to, and with the quality of the opposition somewhat lower than shall be expected once the season begins, Berbatov was given the time to display his superb close control skills, and the space to distribute the ball forward to either striker, or on-rushing midfielders.
Debutant Jesse Lingard was particularly outstanding, demonstrating the same kind of relentless work-ethic and dynamism that have made him a favourite of United reserve followers. Lingard also linked well with Robbie Brady, who was playing in the unfamiliar left-back role, although marauded forward at will.
United deserved the goal which came after 20 minutes, and started with Scott Wootton’s short pass to Scholes from the edge of his own penalty area. Scholes then played a measured ball into the path of Berbatov inside the centre circle, who held off a challenge to slide the ball into Macheda’s path. The keeper managed to get a hand to Kiko’s shot but couldn’t prevent it crossing the line to give United the lead.
After half time, Marnick Vermijl replaced Freddie Veseli in a like-for-like swap, with Veseli having failed to contribute to the game in any meaningful way. Vermijl is a far more attacking full back, which suited the narrow formation United had chosen to play, resulting in him making some terrific runs down the right hand side in the second half.
Ferguson proceeded to make five other changes to personnel during the second half which contributed to a disjointed performance, the highlight of which was a wicked strike by Davide Petrucci from outside AmaZulu’s box which beat their keeper, but rebounded off the bar.
We must of course remember than pre-season games are there to gradually bring the fitness levels of the players back to the standard required week in, week out in the Premier League, and are therefore not necessarily all about either results or performances, however to provide debuts to so many of our reserves, in a new formation, in the first game back after a break and win without conceding can be considered a good evenings work.
Full team listing here