HARRISON, N.J. – Sir Alex Ferguson says he expects Manchester United to have their hands full when the club arrives in July to face the MLS All-Stars and three MLS clubs, more MLS action than the Red Devils have ever seen in previous US tours.
“Now it’s a far more competitive league and far more organized, and we experienced that last year,” Ferguson said at a press conference on Tuesday unveiling his club’s stops this summer. “Teams like [Sporting Kansas City] are at a very good standard, and that’s shown itself in the way we’re going to approach the games ourselves. It’s not going to be easy and we’re not expecting it to be easy.”
Ferguson cited Sporting Kansas City on more than one occasion. The 2-1 loss to Peter Vermes’ side last summer still stings to this day.
“MLS is now developing into a very competitive league and producing teams that make it more difficult games,” Ferguson said. “We found last season particularly in Kansas [City]. We found that very, very difficult, which is a measure of the improvement in American soccer.”
The long-serving Manchester United manager said that his full squad will be available for the matches this summer except for winger Antonio Valencia, who will be with Ecuador for the Copa América. Ferguson confirmed that Javier “Chicharito” Hernández will join the Red Devils on the US tour following the conclusion of Mexico’s participation in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Prior to the All-Star Game, Manchester United first play the New England Revolution on July 13 at Gillette Stadium before heading to Seattle for a match against the Sounders on July 20 at Qwest Field. The matches against MLS clubs wrap up with a meeting against the Chicago Fire at Soldier Field on July 23. The Revolution and Fire matches will be part of the World Football Challenge tournament.
Ferguson believes there will be a revenge factor at play when it comes to the rematch against the MLS All-Stars on July 27 at Red Bull Arena.
“I’m sure the MLS will want to do better than they did last year, and I’m expecting that,” the 69-year-old said in reference to the 5-2 victory last year at Reliant Stadium in Houston.
Two players who were not involved in that game for the MLS side were Thierry Henry and David Beckham. The Frenchman had not yet played a match in MLS and the Englishman was recovering from an Achilles’ injury which kept him out of the 2010 World Cup.
“We’ve got a special plan to sort Henry out,” Ferguson joked. “I’m bringing Roy Keane back."
In all seriousness, Ferguson added, “Great players always get that attention and Thierry understands that perfectly well. He has had a great career in the game. So has David Beckham. But we hope that our own good players will be more important in the game than the opponents.”