A 22 man Manchester United squad flies out to Chicago on Monday to kick off the pre season tour of North America with new signing Javier Hernandez joining the team in Houston later in the month. The more interesting aspect however is the number of names missing from the touring party because of injuries. Club captain Gary Neville is the latest withdrawal having been ruled out with a small tear to his calf muscle.
The 35 year old defender suffered the minor setback in training and will remain at Carrington for treatment in the hope that he will be fit for the start of the new season. Manager Sir Alex Ferguson believes it will be more beneficial for the veteran to remain at home than make the trip. Neville recovered strongly last season after injuries had curtailed his involvement in previous campaigns and was handed a one year extension to his contract.
World Cup players Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick, Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra and Park Ji Sung will also miss the trip following their campaigns in South Africa. The touring squad is – Edwin van der Sar, Tomasz Kuszczak, Ben Amos, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Dimitar Berbatov, John O’Shea, Wes Brown, Fabio Da Silva, Rafael Da Silva, Jonny Evans, Darren Fletcher, Darron Gibson, Chris Smalling, Nani, Federico Macheda, Daniel Welbeck, Mame Biram Diouf, Tom Cleverley, Ritchie De Laet, Corry Evans and Gabriel Obertan.
First stop is Chicago for a training camp before the first match in Toronto against Glasgow Celtic on July 16. The team will then head to Philadelphia for a meeting with Philadelphia Union on July 21 before travelling to Kansas City to take on the Kansas City Wizards on July 25. The next match will be against the MLS All Stars in Houston on July 28, ending the tour with a visit to Guadalajara on July 30 to take on Hernandez’s former club Chivas.
Apart from Neville there are a number of others who are battling the clock in their attempt to be fit for the new season. Ferguson has revealed that injury hit Owen Hargreaves has suffered another set back. Speaking to MUTV, the manager painted a grim outlook for the 29 year old by admitting that he has no idea when the £19 million signing from Bayern Munich will be fit to return to action.
“The bad news is that Hargreaves is back in America seeing the specialist” he said “he won’t be ready for the start of the season. I don’t know when he’ll be back.” Hargreaves required surgery on both knees for tendonitis after pulling up in September 2008. He had played 45 minutes for the reserves and made a brief substitute appearance in the clash with Sunderland at the end of last season.
England skipper Rio Ferdinand is also facing a race against time to recover from the ligament damage he picked up on World Cup duty. A spokesperson told the club official website that Ferdinand could be ready in time for the first league game against Newcastle United at Old Trafford. If the Magpies clash is deemed slightly too soon for Rio, then other possible comeback games include Fulham away on the following weekend or the third league match at home to his old club West Ham.
There was some encouraging news however as Sir Alex expressed confidence that three of his players will be ready for the Newcastle season opener. “Antonio Valencia should be okay and Nani should be ready for the start of the season, too. Michael Owen is doing all his work in the gymnasium every day and while I don’t think he’ll be fit to go to America, he should be ready for the start of the season.” Anderson is also progressing well after tearing his cruciate ligament “He’s doing fine, he’s working hard, but it will be late September.”
Pre season tours have often uncovered future stars. Old timers may remember a young Brian Kidd going on a tour of Australia in 1967 when he was a complete unknown. He finished the following season as an established first team member scoring in the 4-1 defeat of Benfica in the 1968 European Cup final. Here’s hoping that history may repeat itself.
Will Owen Hargreaves EVER regain complete fitness?