Manchester United’s preseason friendly schedule got underway with a 1-0 victory over South African club Amazulu FC. The Red Devils were the stronger side for the majority of the match, treating the their time on the pitch almost like a training session. While many of United’s youngsters got ample playing time, it was two of the veterans that stood out for most of the match. Goal scorer Federico Macheda and fellow striker Dimitar Berbatov proved to be the difference between the two clubs. These two Manchester forwards also appear to be two of the more puzzling players heading into the new season.
Kiko Macheda has been sort of an enigma since joining Manchester United at the age of sixteen. Possessed with plenty of pace and a knack for scoring goals, Macheda was looked upon as the next great striker at Old Trafford. But in his four seasons with the club, Kiko has struggled to find first team football. Last year, Macheda had a strong preseason being one of the top scores for the club, but midway through the campaign, Kiko was sent out on loan to QPR and had little impact due to injuries. Also over those four years, United has brought in other young strikers like Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck to pass Macheda on the depth chart. This would appear to be a very import preseason tour for Kiko to show Sir Alex Ferguson that he deserves more time in the starting eleven. If not, Kiko could be sent out on loan again and his spot with the club could be in jeopardy.
Dimitar Berbatov, on the other hand, is two yeas removed from being the Golden Boot winner in the Premier League. It should be no shock then that he would be a stand out performer against a smaller club like Amazulu FC. During the first friendly, Berbatov showed the creativity and ball control that enticed Manchester United to spend thirty million dollars on him. During his time with the Red Devils, however, Berbatov has often faded out of matches. Case in point, of his twenty goals scored during the 2010-11 season, thirteen came against lower tier clubs like West Ham, Blackburn, Birmingham, and Blackpool. Against tougher competition, Berbatov was usually replaced due to ineffectiveness. Many in the media have speculated that Berbatov is on his way out during the summer transfer window so this preseason tour would seem to be a way for Sir Alex Ferguson to showcase the Bulgarian striker to other clubs. Even if he is not moved during the summer, Berbatov is out of contract at the end of the season, so it appears that his time with United is coming to an end.
This preseason tour is of great importance for these two strikers. One is trying to gain a foothold in a stacked squad. The other, trying to play well enough for another club to take a chance on him. It will be interesting to see, as the matches go on, if either of these players takes advantage of their time on the pitch and are able to move their careers forward.
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