FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Manchester United officially established itself as the most successful club in English history by claiming its 19th league title in the 2010-11 season, which concluded this past May.
The Red Devils begin their quest for a milestone 20th championship on Wednesday, July 13, when they open their preseason tour of the United States with a friendly against the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium. The match will kick off the 2011 Herbalife World Football Challenge and will be the first of United’s five-game slate in the U.S.
Legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson and England National Team center back Rio Ferdinand joined Revolution head coach Steve Nicol and club captain Shalrie Joseph for a joint press conference shortly after arriving in Boston on Monday afternoon.
Ferguson frequently referenced his side’s preseason tour of the United States last season, on which the Red Devils claimed a narrow 1-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union and suffered a 2-1 loss to the Kansas City Wizards. United also rolled to a 5-2 win over the MLS All-Stars as it geared up for another successful Premier League campaign.
“As we experienced last season, we’ve seen the rise in United States soccer,” said Ferguson. “We expect a really difficult game, as we did last season. All the games were very, very tough, so we look forward to it. Hopefully we do ourselves justice, but most importantly it’ll be a step forward in terms of fitness, which is one of the reasons we’re here.”
In particular, Ferguson recalled last year’s loss to Kansas City, in which the MLS side gutted out a victory despite playing down a man for the entire second half. According to Ferguson, superior athleticism and advancements in coaching techniques have elevated the level of the game in the United States.
With last year’s results in mind, United will be wary of the challenge the Revs pose on Wednesday.
“I think the Revolution will be ahead of us in fitness,” said Ferguson, whose side just began training sessions last week. “Last year, we had a really difficult game in Kansas and it was a reminder that no matter what game you go into, you can lose a game of football if you don’t prepare properly and go in with the right attitude and right approach to things. It can happen.”
There will be no shortage of motivation for the Revs, who’ve struggled through the first half of the MLS season and are eager to put on a good showing against one of the world’s top clubs.
“We’re looking forward to the game immensely,” said Nicol, who played under Ferguson with the Scotland National Team at the 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico. “It’ll be a great experience for [the players] to play against one of the best teams on the planet and some of the best players on the planet. I’m sure it’ll be a great experience for our guys. Hopefully we can do well and that’ll give us some confidence to take into the rest of the season.”