Wednesday, March 14, 2007

United Triump Over Europe (Okay, not really....)

Man Utd XI 4 - 3 Europe XI

MANU - Rooney (x2), Brown, Ronaldo;
EU - Malouda, Diouf (x2);


It was a match with little significance in terms of result as United managed to beat a team of European select. But it was a match that commemorated Man United's 50th year in participation of European competition, the formation of the European Union and of course, something for the society, as they managed to raise £1.25million for charity.

With players called up from various leagues throughout Europe, it was a night of brilliant goals, showboating and star-studded lineups. Even non-Europeans were invited to play with the likes of Ronaldinho, Mancini and El-Hadji Diouf.

Although the 2006 World Player of the Year, Ronaldinho, pulled out of the game, it was still quite a spectacle as football fans seldom gets to see so many world class players getting together for a good cause.

As a friendly, there were smiles and friendly gestures throughout and we all know we're in for a treat as both sides never really put their full effort into the game.

It took only 5 minutes for the home side to open the flood gates as Rooney latched onto Paul Scholes' through ball and with Spanish goalkeeper, Santiago Canizares, off his line, the Englishman managed to slot the ball past him easily.

Then the second came from an unlikely source as Wes Brown was on hand to finish off a brilliantly worked move by Ryan Giggs emphatically. The Welsh winger weaved through the defence and placed a wonderful ball for the defender to score.

But the European Select reminded everyone about their presence as they pulled one back through Lyon's French midfielder, Florent Malouda. He lashes out a wonderful left foot strike from outside the box with precision and power.

The star man of the show is no doubt, Cristiano Ronaldo, who showed us some of his trickeries that are thought to be taboo in the Premiership, as he awed the crowd with his side steps and fanciful flicks.

But aside from all that, he provided the very evidence as to why United have been brilliant this season as the Portugese midfield maestro struck a fantastic free kick past the hapless Canizares. The technique he used reminded us of Brazilian free kick specialist, Juninho, as he rammed the ball at such tenacity that it swerved and made it unpredictable.

Many at times, it would've ended up in row Z but since it's an exhibition match, it delivered what it promised. Even Zlatan Ibrahimovic managed to miss a penalty in some style as he rattled the bar.

There was the predicted half time wholesale change as United looked to rest some of their players for more important games ahead while European XI didn't put their players to waste.

The second half team included up to 4 Liverpool players and although it was only a friendly, you could hear the jeers from the crowd. But that didn't spoil the carnival-like atmosphere at Old Trafford as the 'Mexican wave' hits the crowd.

Wayne Rooney got a fourth as he finally managed to score in a 'European competition' since 2004 while El Hadji Diouf's double sandwiched the goal from the England forward. The Senegalese even managed to cheekily chip the ball into the net after being awarded another penalty.

It was indeed a rare event and it's thoroughly enjoyed by not only the 70 odd thousand people in the stands but also, for all who love the game.

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