Man U's trip off to rough start

STEVEN SANDOR, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:18 PM ET

The Toronto leg of Manchester United’s North American tour got off to a very rough start.

Thanks to massive delays in Chicago, where the team held some training sessions and launched their new home shirt, the Red Devils didn’t get to the team’s hotel until 10 p.m. last night, even though manager Sir Alex Ferguson jetted in earlier so he could attend a family function last night.

It was a very weary Darren Fletcher who greeted the media members who decided to stick it out and wait for the team to arrive.

But the Scottish international said he’s thrilled to open the team’s pre-season schedule with Friday’s friendly with Celtic FC at Rogers Centre.

“Playing against Celtic, being from Scotland, that makes that an interesting match for me” he said.

The Manchester United team fans will see Friday won’t come close to resembling the squad that will vie for the Premiership title this season. Yes, veterans Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs made the trip, as did Bulgarian striker Dimitar Berbatov. But, Fletcher admitted that caution will be the watchword when the team takes to temprorary grass field installed at the Rogers Centre for the game. He said he expects that Ferguson will manage all of the players’ minutes incuding his own. The members of the team in camp only began training 10 days ago.

Don’t expect to see any of the United stars who did make the trip to see more than 60 minutes on the pitch.

“It’s our first game,” Fletcher said. “I’m not saying we are going to be taking it easy, but we have to be careful.

“But we have a lot of young players in the squad, it’s going to be great for them.”

All of United’s World Cup players, including Wayne Rooney, defender Nemanja Vidic and midfielder Ji-Sung Park, were left off the trip so they could rest and recuperate before the start of the Premiership season. And Ferguson has warned that he might not use those players in the mid-August curtain-raiser against Newcastle United.

The only exception is Mexican striker Javier Hernandez, who United bought from Chivas Guadalajara in the off-season. One of the conditions of the deal was that Hernandez would play in the

July 30 friendly in Mexico against Chivas that wraps up United’s tour. Hernandez will join United in time for the MLS all-star game July 28 in Houston, a game which also targets the league’s massive latino fan base.

Striker Michael Owen, defender Gary Neville and midfielder Antonio Valencia were also left home because of injury concerns.

While Fletcher admits playing a series of preseason games with half the squad missing is “strange,” he said it shouldn’t hurt the club when the Premiership campaign begins.

“We know everything about those World Cup players.”


Videos

Photos