The two biggest clubs in British soccer history are on their way to Australia this summer. Make no mistake about it; this is a huge scalp for Australian football.
Manchester United announced the pre-season tour mid-December with great effect. Tickets went on sale and where sold out in less than an hour. The anticipation is growing. Fans in Australia have never been this enthused for a pre-season soccer tour before.
Manchester United will face an A-League All-Star side selected by fans. The coach has also been selected by fans and has been confirmed as Melbourne Victory’s Ange Postecoglou, who will manage the A-League All Star game against Manchester United (scheduled for July 20), as well as Melbourne’s match against Liverpool (scheduled for July 24).
Ange has changed the way soccer’s been played in Australia. His philosophy of play is similar to what Brendan Rodgers’ tries to implement at Liverpool. He played the last A-League season predominately with a false nine, with inside forwards and swashbuckling fullbacks. He also featured a very interchangeable midfield that, at their best, was extremely fluid.
In the lead-up to the Manchester United and Liverpool friendlies down under, here are 15 A-League players who have caught my eye:
Ange’s Melbourne Victory will be without this season’s Johnny Warren Medallist (equivalent to an MVP) Marcos Rojas. He’s been one of Victory’s greatest threats after having a wonderful season, where he earned the moniker “Kiwi Messi” by many A-League fans. However, the Melbourne side will still have their ever-talismanic Archie Thompson and Mark Milligan, their cog in midfield.
Postecoglou varies his tactics from time to time. He’s played with a back three, false nine and with a more traditional number nine. But this season has seen him rely more on the counterattack. Therefore, against Liverpool, expect Melbourne to resort to a heavy emphasis on their counterattack game.
This is my pick for the Melbourne Victory side to face Liverpool, if everyone is fit:
The games will be played at two landmark stadiums. The stage for United’s game will be the ANZ Stadium in Sydney. With a capacity of 83,500 and the possibility of it being expanded, it can only lead to a greater atmosphere. As mentioned earlier, the game will be a sell-out with estimates of 80,000 at the Sydney venue.
Liverpool will be treated to one of Australian sports most iconic venues: the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). Hosting Boxing Day Cricket games, AFL Grand Finals and many a Socceroos game, this venue is renowned for big occasions. With a capacity of 100,018, expect the decibel levels to reach deafening levels.
The two games have the potential to build on arguably the greatest A-League season yet. The quality of soccer has improved, while TV ratings, attendances, memberships and media coverage have increased. So, the impact the two games can have on Australian soccer going forward could be massive, opening new doors for the sport in Australia. Plus, the media coverage will amass anything seen before.