Manchester United ran out comfortable winners on Friday as Old Trafford said farewell to a legend and ushered in the resurrection of the New York Cosmos with a goal fest.
A capacity crowd at the Paul Scholes Testimonial match saw the English champions score six against a Cosmos side boasting distinguished football veterans as well as a few of their own academy players. The young academy players making their first appearance on the big stage will certainly have learnt a valuable lesson as the United players turned on the style as they cruised to victory.
Before kick-off all the pubs around Old Trafford were filled with United fans singing Paul Scholes
songs and reminiscing on highlights of his extraordinary career, but there was also a great deal of intrigue and excitement about seeing the rebirth of the New York side. Red of course was the dominant colour in the capacity crowd but there were plenty of white and green to be found
amongst the 76,000 spectators (see left, below) as Manchester welcomed back Eric Cantona and his side into the world of football.
Within 8 minutes, the crowd were given what they came for. From 30 yards out, Scholes fired a trademark 30 yard shot past Brad Friedel and into the top corner to put United 1-0 up, just as he’d done throughout his 17 year career at Old Trafford.
United then doubled their lead after Ashley Young had been clumsily brought down in the box by Iraheta. The fans were calling for Scholes to get his second goal of the night, but the ever modest midfielder stood back and let Rooney fire the penalty in off the bar to make it 2-0.
The Cosmos then began to get into the game a bit more with some of their own players quietly impressing. Iraheta began to control the play as the game progressed, often starting attacks by keeping possession and getting the ball forward to Dwight Yorke and Robbie Keane. United still pressed forward and were only prevented from making it 3-0 before half time thanks to some excellent defending from Yanik Reyering, who produced a stunning block on Wayne Rooney just before the break.
In the second half, Anderson scored United’s third after some incisive one touch play with Welbeck, who went on to make it 4-0 to the English champions after Cosmos failed to get rid of the ball in the box. Cosmos under-23 keeper Chad Calderone will be disappointed by United’s fifth goal, as Mame Diouf squeezed a shot through the legs of the anguished goalkeeper, and Diouf went on to get his second and United’s sixth just before full time.
Despite the one sided scoreline, the Cosmos played much better in the second half, thanks mainly to the introduction of former Arsenal and Man City midfielder Patrick Vieira. However the best chance of the night for Cosmos, however, fell to their Bulgarian striker Stefan Dimitrov. Wayne Bridge whipped in a great cross to the far post but Dimitrov headed wide, despite being unmarked and making a great connection with the header.
If any Cosmos player deserved a goal on the night, it was Stefan Dimitrov. The former Chicago Fire striker displayed some great hold up play as the lone striker and worked tirelessly up front to keep possession for the New Yorkers. He will be disappointed with the header but his all round performance was very encouraging for the Cosmos, as was that of Yanik Reyering whose defensive heroics prevented United from scoring even more.
It was very much a baptism of fire for the reformed side but the early signs are encouraging for the Cosmos and they will certainly have learnt a lot from the defeat. It is early days but as the curtain fell on Paul Scholes’s glittering career, the exhibition game at Old Trafford showed that behind the scenes, the Cosmos are moving in the right direction and could certainly have an impact on the MLS when their resurrection is complete in 2013.
Many thanks to Kev for his report and photographs.