MALAYSIA - Michael Owen struck his second United goal in as many games as the Reds completed the double over the Malaysian XI with a comprehensive 2-0 victory.
Owen blasted home from close range on 13 minutes after capitalising on a loose ball inside the area having played his part in the build-up. Two minutes earlier Federico Macheda had opening the scoring with a calm finish following Darren Fletcher’s set-up.
In truth, the Reds could have had more – substitutes Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov and Anderson all went close late on in the second half, but it was certainly another useful work-out for Sir Alex’s men.
Jonny Evans was the only survivor from Saturday’s starting line-up against the same opposition with Sir Alex opting to give everyone some minutes on the clock. Ben Foster, a second half substitute in the first match, kept his place in goal, while Gary Neville, Wes Brown, Jonny Evans and Fabio made up the back four. Darren Fletcher and Michael Carrick both returned from minor knocks to take up right side and central midfield positions respectively. Ryan Giggs partnered Carrick in the centre with Zoran Tosic on the left flank. Saturday's matchwinner Michael Owen started his first game for the Reds alongside Federico Macheda up front.
There was a minute’s silence before kick-off in tribute to those who lost their lives in Friday’s bombings in Indonesia, the country, of course, where United should have been playing their second tour match.
Following Saturday’s impressive display, the home side were understandably full of confidence with goalscoring hero Mohammed Amri Yahyah getting the loudest cheers whenever he touched the ball. Another big favourite, Reds’ veteran Ryan Giggs, thrilled the partisan crowd with a host of tricks and flicks, alongside some exquisite close control, movement and vision, and it was he who orchestrated United’s first major venture forward on six minutes. A lovely one-two with Fletcher resulted in the Scot collecting possession on the right wing, but his lovely curling cross was just taken off the head of Macheda by Malaysia goalkeeper Mohammed Farizal Marlias.
There was nothing he could do to stop the young Italian from giving United the lead on 11 minutes, however. Fabio cut in from the left and whipped in a low right-foot cross towards Macheda whose speculative flick found the unmarked Fletcher on the right side of the area. The shot looked on, but he unselfishly chose to square the ball to Macheda who took a touch to set himself, before blasting home from close range.
Two minutes later United doubled their advantage. Owen found the lively Tosic on the left wing and although his low centre was initially missed by Macheda, it rebounded off Mazlizam and into the path of Owen, who had followed the ball into the area, and he made no mistake from three yards as he lashed past Marlias.
While the hosts struggled to conjure any real attacks, United continued to look dangerous going forward with Macheda and Owen linking up well. And the latter went close to grabbing his second of the match in the cheekiest of fashions on 33 minutes. Another low whipped cross from the left by Tosic was instinctively flicked goalwards by Owen who was hugely unlucky to see the ball bounce back off the far post and into Marlias’ grasp.
United made just one change at the break with Tomasz Kuszczak replacing Foster in goal. The Pole was almost thrust into action immediately when a low punt upfield nearly set Yahyah away, but Brown stood strong to hold off the midfielder and clear the danger.
It wasn’t long before Kuszczak’s opposite number was called into action once more, but he again showed great awareness and speed as he raced off his line to intercept a lovely through ball towards Owen from Giggs.
As expected, a string of substitutions ensued either side of the hour with Dimitar Berbatov, John O’Shea, Rio Ferdinand and Nani replacing Owen, Neville, Evans and Tosic respectively. A barrage of acclaim greeted the introduction of Wayne Rooney soon after and the striker went close to sending the decibel level through the roof two minutes later when he collected a long ball over the top from Wes Brown. Unfortunately, he dragged his left-foot shot wide of goal.
Anderson, Paul Scholes and Darron Gibson were next to join proceedings with the fresh legs bringing a fresh impetus to United’s play, as well as a raft of decent chances. Just seconds after coming on, Gibson saw his low shot from the right edge of the area deflected out for a corner following Berbatov’s neat set-up. The Bulgarian should have done better with a free header from Nani’s right-wing cross soon after, while Nani was next to test Marlias with a low drive.
Rooney fired into the side netting on 76 minutes after cutting in from the left, while Anderson, still searching for his first United goal (both in a competitive and non-competitive sense), flashed a rising shot wide of the right upright after being found well by O’Shea.
Despite United’s dominance, the Malaysians refused to give up hope and were unlucky not to get themselves on the scoresheet in the final minutes. After Brown had made a brilliant interception as Shakir bore down on goal, Kuszczak was relieved to see Muhymeen’s right wing cross evade the same player seconds later. A well struck shot from Talaha followed, but was expertly palmed away by Kuszczak.
It was a lively ending to an entertaining 90 minutes as United held firm for the victory and clean sheet.
United: Foster (Kuszczak 46); Neville (O’Shea 62), Brown, J.Evans (Ferdinand 62), Fabio (Evra 58); Fletcher (Anderson 69), Carrick (Gibson 70), Giggs (Scholes 69), Tosic (Nani 62); Owen (Berbatov 62), Macheda (Rooney 67).
Goals: Macheda 11, Owen 13
Malaysian XI: Marlias; Asraruddin, Zafuan, Zamani (Muslim Ahmad, 75), Mazlizan (Thirumurugan 15; Mat Abu 78); Kunanlan (Muhymeen 58), Rahim (Gurusamy 57), Umar (Rohidan 66); Yahyah (Bakhtiar 64), Indra Putra (Shakir 72); Zaquan (Talaha 46).
[This article is also available at Manchester United Official Website.]