Ever since I bought the tickets in April, I had been looking forward to July 27th. Besides seeing Manchester United already in Boston, I knew this experience was going to be simply insane. Having the opportunity to see the champions of England go up against America’s elite was something I knew that I would cherish.
I had a lot of expectations going into the game because of the stars out on the pitch ranging from the stalwarts of United to the star studded roster of the MLS which most notably included the likes of David Beckham and Thierry Henry. After last year’s all star match, there were a lot of questions about how the game would pan out as this year’s MLS All Star Roster looked more formidable than the previous squad.
After a long commute, I finally made it to Harrison, New Jersey, where all the action was about to happen. I got there several hours before the match began which was great because of the events going on outside the stadium. There were interactive exhibits ranging from fans testing out their football skills, autograph sessions, and many other cool displays. I was especially impressed in terms of who was signing autographs which ranged from past stars like goalie Tony Meola to current talents like Dane Richards, Sebastian Le Toux and Luke Rodgers. In all, it was a great celebration of football in America which I was proud to see.
I then made it to my seats where I got to enjoy both squads warm up before the match. Just like the match in Boston, it was great to see heroes of the game that we all worship up close. I could tell that this game was going to be special. Looking around the stadium, I was impressed by the large contingent of United fans as well as MLS Supporters who were there. Without doubt, the name I most often saw on the back of shirts was Chicharito, the Mexican sensation who came out of nowhere to storm the footballing world. With news of his concussion, it was unfortunate he wasn’t there to witness the impact he’s made as Chicharito-mania was evident everywhere.
The pre-match ceremony was typically lively ranging from parachuters landing on the pitch, fireworks blasting off, and military helicopters swooping right over the stadium. In the middle of all this, I started to wonder if there was going to be a football match in the middle of all the craziness. However, I wasn’t disappointed as the real show began with the game commencing between the two sides.
In the first fifteen minutes, the MLS All Stars looked like the stronger team. David Beckham was marshalling the team in terms of building chances with passes all over the place. United struggled to get anything going as their opponents had a good share of the ball. However, as Becks laughingly remarked after the game, you have to take advantage of your chances because United will kill you with any opportunity. This came true after 18 minutes when Berbatov and Rooney made a series of passes back and forth to one another which off-put the MLS defense. Rooney centered the ball to Anderson who side-footed it past Philadelphia Union keeper Faryd Mondragon for the first goal.
The MLS All Stars tried to answer back through long shots from Beckham and Brad Davis which forced Anders Lindegaard to make some acrobatic saves. The game continued to be lively although the first half looked set to close with only one goal scored. However, Ji-Sung Park had something to say about that when right at the death of the half, the South Korean beautifully got past two defenders before lashing a left-footed strike past Mondragon into the far corner. With that, United were up by two at the half and looked well on their way.
Seven minutes into the third, United added a third goal thanks to some artistry by none other than Dimitar Berbatov. A great pass by Rooney sent the Bulgarian in against goalie Tally Hall. The Bulgarian plopped the ball over the goalie’s head only to have it hit the post. However, Berbatov would not be denied as he chested it and then volleyed it into the net. A testament to his sublime first touch, the goal only confirms how Berbatov takes pride in scoring beautiful goals.
After a giant rush of substitutes by Ferguson, the match looked like it may slow down. However, Danny Welbeck showed his great potential by scoring a long distance goal from outside the penalty box after it deflected off defender Geoff Cameron. With a commanding four goal lead, the rest of the match was cruise control for the Red Devils. One notable moment though at the end of the match was David Beckham getting a free kick just outside the box. He turned back the years with his pattented bent shot which hit the side netting. Honestly, I kind of hoped it would go in because it would have shown the magic United fans were used to from the England superstar.
With that the match ended, and after the trophy ceremony, the MLS ended the night with a firework show that was a true marvel. As the fireworks lit up the sky, I thought that it was a glorious night and truly, the highlight of my summer. It was a night that I won’t forget anytime soon.