Soldier Field – Chicago, July 23-rd, 2011 @ 4.00 pm
Played in baking heat, in front of the largest ever crowd at Soldier Field for a game of club soccer, United were given a stern test by a Chicago side lying third from bottom in the MLS Eastern Conference.
Five new players
With his second match in four days, Sir Alex handed first pre-season starts to the five players who joined the tour in Seattle, including summer signings David de Gea and Phil Jones.
They were part of a young back five, with only Patrice Evra and Fabio old enough to legally drink in the USA.
United early chances
The Red Devils started well and carved out the game’s first chance.
They nearly took a 1-0 lead in the fifth minute when Danny Welbeck produced a sublime piece of skill to outfox three defenders on the halfway line before slipped Dimitar Berbatov into the Fire penalty area as he fired a low blast which second-year keeper Sean Johnson was all over it.
Chicago on Fire
Playing at Soldier Field for the first time since October 2005 on a melting Saturday, ex-Premier League defender Cory Gibbs, gave the home team the lead putting more “heat” to the stands.
Following a foul 40 yards from goal, midfielder Marco Pappa sent in a well-struck free kick from the right touch-line, finding the once Charlton Athletic player Gibbs who out-jumped United new players, center back Phil Jones and keeper David de Gea and headed past the latter to give the Fire a 1-0 lead.
This was Gibbs’ first goal in a Fire shirt for more than a year
Fire missed opportunities
Fire nearly doubled their lead over the reining Premier League champions twice before the half.
First in the 32-nd minute when a whipping cross from right back Jalil Anibaba was headed back into the box by his opposite number Fabio.
On the other side, the relentless heat didn’t help the Reds, although Obertan and Fabio both blasted over from distance in the space of two minutes as Sir Alex’s men upped the ante.
Cristian Nazarit almost put the Fire 2-0 up when he blasted low and narrowly wide after half-an-hour, while Pappa also tried his luck from distance.
United, it must be said, failed to exert much influence on the first-half contest after the Fire’s goal and were lucky to go into the break just one goal down.
Indeed, it took a stunning reflex save from de Gea – his first major contribution in a Reds shirt – in the 45th minute to keep out Patrick Nyarko’s close-range effort, sending the Fire into the halftime break with a 1-0 lead.
On the second half, both teams made multiple substitutions and the only player left on the pitch for the whole game was David de Gea.
United showed their intent to change the result as they brought on Wayne Rooney, Ji-Sung Park and Ryan Giggs. Chicago crowd were especially happy to welcome Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs into the game as both were the creators of the power strike for the Reds.
Rooney stung the palms of substitute goalkeeper Jon Conway before Pappa hit the side-netting and Orr Barouch the post, courtesy of a smart finger-tip save from de Gea down to his right.
Another substitute defender, Rio Ferdinand played a pinpoint ball over the top for Wayne Rooney who took one touch before chipping over onrushing Fire goalkeeper Jon Conway to level the score at 1-1 in the 66th minute. That gave Reds fans and his personal fans something to cheer for.
Ten minutes later, United were in front after Rafael and Nani combined down the right flank and the young Brazilian shimmied along the by-line and coolly squeezed the ball through Conway’s legs.
Nani then added further gloss to the scoreline with eight minutes remaining when he profited from some generous defending and cheekily dinked the ball into the net, followed by his flip over and cart-wheel move.
It was perhaps harsh on the Fire who, until they began to ring the changes midway through the second period, looked likely winners in this contest that will live long in the memory of Chicago soccer fans.
Chicago Fire: Sean Johnson (Jon Conway 46’); Jalil Anibaba (Mike Videira 88’), Yamith Cuesta (Josip Mikulic 46’), Cory Gibbs (Dasan Robinson 88’), Gonzalo Segares (Pari Pantazopoulos 88’); Marco Pappa (Sebastian Grazzini 62’), Logan Pause (Baggio Husidic 46’), Daniel Paladini (Corben Bone 88’), Patrick Nyarko (Diego Chaves 79’); Dominic Oduro (Bratislav Ristic 72’), Cristian Nazarit (Orr Barouch 46’)
Manchester United: David de Gea, Patrick Evra (Rio Ferdinand 56’), Phil Jones (Rafael 75’), Chris Smalling (Nemanja Vidic 75’), Fabio da Silva (Jonny Evans 46’), Michael Carrick (Anderson 46’), Gabriel Obertan (Nani 56’), Tom Cleverly (Park Ji-Sung 46’), Dimitar Berbatov (Wayne Rooney 46’), Danny Welbeck (Federico Macheda 75’), Mame Biram Diouf (Ryan Giggs 46’).
Scoring: Cory Gibbs 13’ / Wayne Rooney 66’, Rafael 75’, Nani 82’
Caution: Ryan Giggs 81’
Referee: Terry Vaughn
– During Reds practice session on Friday evening, Sir Alex Ferguson was smiling for a few minutes as Bulgarian side CSKA fans were cheering on Berbatov. “Is this Man U or CSKA practicing ?” asked Sir Alex of Berbatov at that time.
– Wayne Rooney scored his first goal of the match and his fourth of the Tournament
– On the 56th minute, Manchester United played for almost 60 seconds with 12 players, as three subs came in and only two went out, with Evra coming off after the confussion.
– This match had a record crowd of 61,308 to follow an international soccer match at Soldier Field and also was a record-breaking crowd for any international match Chicago Fire has played
– Ryan Giggs was not happy after he took the ball away from Chicago player on the 81-st minute on a tackle and was shown a yellow card from referee as he kicked the ball to the side board. Later replays showed the tackle was clean.
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