MALAYSIA - Michael Owen secured a 3-2 victory for the Reds in their opening Asia Tour match, coming off the bench to fire the winner on his debut against a hard working Malaysian XI.
Sir Alex's men had earlier taken a 2-0 lead through Wayne Rooney and Nani. Rooney opened the scoring on eight minutes, firing home from close range, and then turned provider for Nani 20 minutes later who finished with aplomb.
A stunning volley on half-time from Yahyah gave the hosts hope, before a mistake from Ben Foster seven minutes after the restart allowed Yahyah to grab his second. But Owen wrapped up the win with a cool finish five minutes from time.
In searing heat, the Reds were given a good workout by their enthusiastic and energetic opponents who were five minutes away from a famous result against United.
Sir Alex picked a strong side for his side’s opening tour match against a hugely inexperienced Malaysian side (only four players in their side were over 23), but opted to leave Owen on the bench. With Nemanja Vidic missing the tour through injury, Jonny Evans partnered skipper Rio Ferdinand in central defence, with John O’Shea and Patrice Evra on the right and left flanks respectively. In front of them, Darron Gibson took up a position on the right with Nani down the left. Paul Scholes and Anderson anchored the midfield, while Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov linked up in attack.
And it was the Bulgarian who had United’s first sight of goal after just three minutes. Having received the ball from Anderson on the edge of the area, he turned and looked to play in Rooney. A couple of ricochets off one of the Malaysian defenders prevented the pass from getting through, but the ball dropped nicely into Berbatov’s path who struck a first time right-foot dipping volley which was expertly pushed round the post by Marlias in the Malaysian goal. From Nani’s resulting corner, Berbatov flashed a header just wide.
Five minutes later Zaquan struck a speculative low drive from some 40 yards which bounced wide and Yahyah saw an effort easily collected by Edwin van der Sar after he’d stolen in following some miscontrol by Evra.
To the delight of the United-mad crowd inside the Bukit Jalil Stadium, the Reds took the lead on eight minutes through the lively Wayne Rooney. A superb cross-field pass from Anderson picked out Gibson on the right. The Irish international’s cross towards Rooney was cut out, but the ball bounced back into his path and allowed him to find Berbatov in the box. His first time effort was well saved by Marlias, but it fell to Rooney who blasted the ball into the roof of the net from two yards.
The striker almost doubled his tally two minutes later when he latched onto Nani’s left-wing cross. Only a brilliant fingertip save from Marlias prevented his first time volley into the ground from looping into the net.
United continued to look dangerous in attack and Scholes went close with a glorious effort from the edge of the box which flew just wide of Marlias’ right upright on 19 minutes.
Nine minutes later, the Reds made it two. A nice one-two between Rooney and Berbatov following a clearance upfield from Van der Sar set Rooney away down the left. He cut inside, before threading an inch-perfect ball into the onrushing Nani who calmly slotted home. Cue the acrobatics from the Portuguese winger.
A minute later, Nani played a free-kick short to Scholes who saw his well-struck shot well-held by Marlias, who breathed a sign a relief soon after when an unmarked Berbatov headed wide from Nani’s corner.
With the Malaysian side offering little going forward apart from some speculative long range efforts, United were in cruise control. But they were left stunned by a Malaysian goal right on half-time and what a goal it was. A long punt upfield by Marlias was misjudged by Evra allowing Yahyah to pick up possession, and the midfielder didn’t think twice before striking a brilliant looping volley over the head of van der Sar.
The Dutch stopper was given a breather after the break after being replaced by Ben Foster, whose pre-season got off to the worst possible start.
Just seconds after Rooney had flicked the ball just wide of Marlias’ right-hand post after a glorious set-up from Scholes, the Malaysians drew level on 52 minutes after a horrible error from the England stopper. An innocuous backpass from Gibson was completely missed by Foster allowing the ever-alert Yahyah to steal in and slide the ball home.
A quadruple substitution from Sir Alex soon followed with Michael Owen, sporting the No.7 shirt, given his first taste of action in a red shirt. Zoran Tosic, Fabio and Wes Brown, who took over the captain’s armband from Ferdinand, also entered the fray.
United set about regaining their lead and Nani went close in the 64th minute with a dipping cross-cum-shot from the right which was tipped away from Marlias. The Malaysian stopper saved again from Nani nine minutes later with Owen mis-hitting the rebound well off target.
He made no mistake five minutes from time as United wrapped up the victory. A lovely through ball from Gibson towards substitute Ryan Giggs, who had made his way into the area, was cut out brilliantly by the onrushing Marlias, but with the Malaysian stopper out of position Owen picked his spot and calmly slotted the ball home for his first United goal.
United: Van der Sar (Foster 46); O'Shea, Ferdinand (Brown 61), Evans, Evra (Fabio 61); Gibson, Scholes (Tosic 61), Anderson (Giggs 76), Nani; Rooney (Owen 61), Berbatov (Macheda 76).
Goals: Rooney 8, Nani 28, Owen 85
Malaysian XI: Marlias; Mazlizam, Zamani, Zafuan, Asraruddin; Rahim, Rohidan, Kunalan, Yahyah, Indra Putra; Zaquan.
Goals: Yahyah 45, 52
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