Once again, David Beckham donned the shirt of another in a match versus Manchester United - this time in an exhibition for the Major League Soccer (MLS) All-Stars. Despite shining at times in a featured role as a deep-lying playmaker for his side, Becks could do little to prevent his side from a 4-0 defeat to United - the Reds have outscored their MLS opponents 18-2 thus far during their pre-season tour through the United States. In this match, Anderson (19'), Park Ji-sung (45'), Dimitar Berbatov (51'), and Danny Welbeck (67') all contributed with goals - with the Korean's and Bulgarian's being particularly impressive. Park went on to win MVP honors for the match - an award that thrilled him much less than the hug that he received from Patrice Evra during his goal celebration. One last match awaits United on Saturday for this U.S. tour - FC Barcelona. Here a few quick thoughts on tonight's friendly:
Full-back depth: One reason that I advocated for John O'Shea to stay was because of depth concerns at full-back. We have three terrific full-backs in Evra, Rafael, and Fabio - I'm incredibly grateful for this. However, the twins have shown themselves injury prone thus far in their young United careers and if one were to go down to injury, or even the durable Evra, we would be dangerously thin at full-back. This worry is magnified for me when I consider that we will likely play in the region of 60 matches this season in the chase for multiple trophies.
Perhaps the most pleasant thing from tonight's exhibition was the solid performance of Phil Jones at right-back while battling with Thierry Henry. The Frenchman quite obviously is no longer the dangerous attacker that he was during his Arsenal days, however, the 19-year-old Jones handled him well nonetheless. The newly-signed defender not only showed the strength that he's been scouted as having, but he showed pace that may be suitable as a 3rd choice option at right-back. In addition, while not providing the marauding overlapping runs that the twins provide, he showed himself competent on the ball tonight as well. Chris Smalling has looked much less convincing during his spells at right-back during the U.S. tour. Jonny Evans looks to have a similar role on the left-side this season. I still think we certainly need another natural full-back for depth purposes, but the situation perhaps is not as dire as I had originally perceived.
Goalkeeper situation: Does anyone think that it is not a given that David de Gea is the starter versus West Bromich Albion in a few weeks time? I don't. However, Anders Lindegaard has shown very well thus far in the opportunities that he has gotten - he even is saying all of the right things during interviews. The Dane clearly is not resigned to the fate as de Gea's backup. The Spaniard likely gets the start versus Barcelona on Saturday evening, and he may even get the full 90. If he trips up or looks shaky in that exhibition match, it is entirely possible that Lindegaard may not be too far off from getting the chance to start for United. de Gea is immensely talented and the club spent quite a bit of resouces in acquiring him, however, he showed signs of shakiness in his only match for United thus far. It could be argued that he should have come out for a floated ball on a Chicago Fire set-piece last Saturday that led to a goal and he clearly struggled to communicate while setting up a wall while defending against a direct free-kick. de Gea is the No 1 - but Lindegaard is ready to pounce if the Spaniard struggles in the early going.
Clinical finishing: The competition for United clearly is not up to par of the English Premier League thus far during the tour. However, the United attackers are doing exactly what they should be doing when chances present themselves - putting the ball in the back of the goal. Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov, Nani, Park, Federico Macheda, Danny Welbeck, and even Anderson have all bagged goals thus far on this trip - collectively, the forwards and wide players look ready to start the reason right now. The central midfield, an area of the pitch that has gotten much publicity in the summer due to a perceived need of a creator, has failed to inspire thus far this pre-season. Michael Carrick has generally been solid, and he likely will be partnered by the ageless Ryan Giggs at the season's start, but Anderson and Tom Cleverley have failed to show consistency despite showing flashes of their potential. Fitness is the main concern in the pre-season, so a judgment of lack of form may be harsh, but the central-midfield is worth paying close attention to when considering that Darren Fletcher has yet to prove that he's at full health.
Becks: He clearly is no longer the player that he once was. He may not have ever been the player that some perceive him to have been. However, that right boot is still as dangerous as ever. His defending is poor, but if he is protected, maybe a role as a deep-lying playmaker, in the mold of Andrea Pirlo and Paul Scholes (late in his career), may the best way to extend his career if he still desires playing. He did well tonight in spraying the ball around to the MLS attackers from a deep position - it was quite clear that the MLS All-Star's coach made Becks the engineer of their attack tonight.
Becks praised Sir Alex Ferguson and the club in a post-match interview:
"United have the best manager in the world, are the biggest club in the world, have the best players and fans in the world."
What are your thoughts? What has you excited ahead of the season? What has you worried? Please share in the comments below.