UPDATED: The build-up for the friendly pitting Manchester United against the New England Revolution was predictable.
A local TV newscaster called Man United’s visit as the arrival of “the best team in the world” (I guess he didn’t see the Barcelona game) and joked about Alex Fergusson having “sir” before his name. Yes, we get it, Mr. Newsreader, soccer is an odd game and British customs are funny to you.
The Boston media treated Wednesday’s friendly against Manchester United as a curiosity at best. Boston is still in the afterglow of a Bruins’ Stanley Cup and the Red Sox are in the middle of a heated pennant race so exhibition soccer match on a Wednesday night didn’t garner much attention.
That is except for the 50,000-plus fans that went to Gillette Stadium wearing Man United and Premier League jerseys to watch a world-class team.
The friendly was actually my first soccer match. I’ve become hooked on the Premier League and what better team to see first in person than Man United – defending Premier League champions?
The match had its drama including Wayne Rooney’s attempted scissor kick, Nani’s fancy footwork and Dimitar Berbatov’s headers repeatedly missing the goal. Those wowed the crowd in the first half, but the game was tied at 0-0 at halftime. Rooney and Berbatov were substituted out of the game, but the second half gave American fans the opportunity to applaud Ryan Giggs who came on to thunderous applause.
There were plenty of goals in the second half, with Man United easily besting their MLS foe 4-1, but the energy level was not the same. Rooney was off the pitch and interest waned in the crowd though nearly all of the 50,000-plus stayed to the end despite scattered showers.
For the Man U players, the game was a chance to prepare for the upcoming season and avoid injury, but for Premier League fans in New England, the match was an opportunity to see the champions, Rooney, and the Premier League trophy.
Gillette Stadium is a long way from Manchester, but for an evening Man United brought Old Trafford to New England.
More photos from the game: