Monday, July 20, 2009

Friendly: Malaysia 0 - 2 United

Two matches, two goals. If beginnings are vital in sport, then Michael Owen has begun his Manchester United career almost perfectly. The only difference between his first and second goals was that there were around 60,000 fewer watching. The sudden rearrangement of this fixture, following the cancellation of the Indonesian leg of the tour, meant there had been only two days to sell tickets and for once in Asia, Manchester United played to banks of empty seats. The airless humidity that has accompanied them in Malaysia was the same and the relentless drumming from the stands would also have been familiar.

The game began much as it had at the weekend, with United going two goals up, but this time the Malaysians did not claw their way back. Both goals were somehow typical of their scorers. Federico Macheda's opener was a muscular effort, after he seized on a return ball from Darren Fletcher. Owen, as so often in his pomp, benefited from being in the right place at the right time as Malaysia made two feeble efforts to clear their lines from a cross by Zoran Tosic.

"It was a typical Michael Owen goal – first to react in the penalty box – and when he struck the post, that, too, was absolutely typical, beating the defender to the near post," said his manager, Sir Alex Ferguson. "I was pleased with his overall contribution on a difficult pitch. It was warm just watching it and these are very difficult conditions for Manchester United. But it was a much better performance than on Saturday and I'm looking forward to getting to Korea where the standard is higher."

Wayne Rooney's introduction in the second half lifted the tempo of a contest that was beginning to fall well below the lethargic and there was even a flash of temper when he flattened the midfielder Amar Rohidan. Even the fanatically loyal Malaysian crowd thought this was worthy of some kind of punishment. On another day and when points were at stake, Rooney would have risked dismissal but this foul warranted only a gentle talking-to from the referee.

"It was a momentary explosion of anger," Ferguson, said. "He was annoyed because he'd just had a bang on the ear and that's had to be stitched." At least Rooney looked enthused by the evening, although repeated attempts to find the net finished in the side-netting and on the athletics track the frustration began to mount. Dimitar Berbatov, the only striker yet to find the net on tour, looked lethargic by contrast. But that would be true whether it was Malaysia in July or Middlesbrough in January.


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