Our second pre-season tour match took part this afternoon in front of an almost capacity 55,000 crowd on a damp Cape Town afternoon. United were given a good run by the South African side, Ajax Cape Town, and came back to snatch a late equaliser through Bébé to earn a hard fought 1-1 draw.
Starting XI: Amos; Vermijl, Wooton, Ferdinand, Blackett; Valencia, Scholes, Carrick, Anderson; Kagawa; Hernandez
The main talking point before the game was finally getting a prolonged look at our new signing, Shinji Kagawa. The watching fans weren’t disappointed as he made some wonderful touches and created some great opportunities, giving us all a taster of what we can grow to expect over the coming season.
The first half wasn’t the greatest 45 minutes of football that you will ever see, as United showed their pre-season rustiness, however, both sides did create several chances. The first 20 minutes United had got into good positions down the flanks but the crosses let them down, first from young Tyler Blackett, and later from our new number 7, Antonio Valencia.
Then after 20 minutes, Ajax had a lovely chance, Paul Scholes gave the ball away allowing Ajax to break through United’s back line only to fire inches wide of Ben Amos’ left hand post, it was the best chance of the game so far and it served as a warning that Ajax weren’t just there to make up the numbers.
It was after this chance that United started to play a little better, and it was with this that Kagawa started to make an impact upon the game. He had some wonderful movement and some fine touches. United even had the ball in the back of the net through Javier Hernandez, but only long after Antonio Valencia had been flagged offside.
Then on 34 minutes came one of the chances of the match, Scott Wooton found himself high up the pitch after bringing the ball out of defence, and Wooton provided a wonderful cross which was met by the head of Hernandez only to be sublimely saved by former Liverpool goalkeeper, Sander Westerweld in the Ajax goal.
United wasted another chance just before half time. Kagawa again involved with some lovely movement and quick feet, slipped it into Michael Carrick, whose left footed cross just evaded the on rushing Hernandez and the ball dribbled out for a goal kick.
The second half began at a much quicker pace, and it was evident that Kagawa was really growing in confidence as he played some more lovely passes, and after 47 minutes, he played a sublime ball to Hernandez whose first touch took it past the defender, but he slipped as he hit the ball which fired into the side netting.
Despite United playing some fine football in the opening exchanges they were constantly frustrated by a very organised Ajax defence. Valencia, Carrick, Scholes and Kagawa were really starting to dictate the play but couldn’t find a way through the organised Ajax back line. Conditions underfoot really weren’t helping either, substantial rainfall over the previous days meant players were slipping around, none more so than Javier Hernandez, who just couldn’t seem to make it click today.
We kept pressing, and in the 61st minute, Anderson played a lovely ball into Hernandez, who supplied a lovely cross from the left edge of the penalty area. The cross found Kagawa, who was in acres of space in the box, but the Japanese international could only put the ball wide and he missed the chance for his first goal.
Then came a whole host of changes, first, 5 substitutions for Ajax, then shortly followed by 4 for United. Anderson, Scholes, Hernandez and Valencia were replaced by Lingard, Tunnicliffe, Bébé, and our other new signing, Nick Powell making his first appearance for the club. The changes disrupted the flow and rhythm of the game and 10 minutes later, Kagawa was also replaced by Dimitar Berbatov.
Few chances were created following the changes until Ajax won a 86th minute corner. The corner was poorly defended by United and the ball was expertly flicked into Amos’ goal by Alcardo Van Graan, who had only come onto the pitch just moments before. United were trailing.
It looked like United would be heading for defeat, but the goal fired up the United youngsters, and they went up to the other end and put the Ajax goal under siege. First Tunnicliffe had a shot that forced the substitute goalkeeper to tip the ball over the bar. However the referee, who made several mistakes throughout the match, failed to spot the save and gave a goalkick to Ajax, much the the frustration of Tunnicliffe, who got himself booked for his protests.
As the game moved into 4 added minutes, Tunnicliffe was involved again, this time linking up with Nick Powell who played a lovely 1-2 with Jesse Lingard, before Powell hit one from the edge of the box only to be saved comfortably by the goalkeeper again.
Then as time was almost up, United attacked again, this time down the wing. Young Marnick Vermijl, who had a good game at right back, had bombed forward once again, put in an excellent cross that evaded the goalkeeper and fell to Bébé at the back post, who eventually managed to direct it into the back of the net for a late equaliser, to keep United’s unbeaten run in this pre season campaign.
The draw was probably a deserving scoreline for both sides, United had the better class and quality, but Ajax showed fantastic enthusiasm and determination to keep United at bay. United’s tour take them on to China next, where they will come up against former Chelsea strike duo, Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba.
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