From Africa to Ashton – Pre-Season is upon us
Posted by nickogs20 on July 12, 2010
For the last six weeks or so the focus of the football world has been on some minor tournament taking place in South Africa, but with that tinpot event drawing to a close last night, it’s time to shift that focus back to more important matters, starting tonight as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and a new-look United reserve squad get their pre-season programme up and running against local non-league outfit Curzon Ashton.
Just over two months after winning the 2009/10 national reserve title in thrilling fashion, Solskjaer and assistant Warren Joyce will begin their preparations to do it all over again in 2010/11 with the short trip across Manchester for the first of seven warm-up games. It’s the reserves’ second trip to the Tameside Stadium in Ashton-under-Lyne, with a Rene Meulensteen-led side having rather uncharitably thrashed the Blues 8-0 in a September 2005 friendly to mark the venue’s opening – among those involved that night were current Premier League players Darron Gibson, Ryan Shawcross, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, Frazier Campbell and Danny Simpson, as well as a certain Gerard Piqué, who on last night’s evidence has arguably progressed onto slightly bigger and better things.
Gary Lowe’s Curzon side grabbed headlines a couple of seasons ago with an FA Cup giantkilling, knocking out Exeter City to reach the Second Round proper, their best ever performance in the competition. They play their league football in the Northern Premier League Division One North, at level eight of the English pyramid. AFC Fylde, of the same division, gave the Reds a real test in their pre-season opener last year, so the United second string will know not take their non-league opponents lightly.
That said, tonight’s XI promises to be markedly different to that which took the field at Kellarmergh Park last July. Tom Hewson, Febian Brandy and Sam Hewson (as well as subs Ron-Robert Zieler and Anton Bryan) have since left the club, while Ritchie de Laet, Corry Evans and Tom Cleverley are all currently en route to the USA for the first team’s North America tour. We can also rule out other reserve regulars like Matt James and Danny Drinkwater (on loan), Reece Brown (on international duty), and Gabriel Obertan, Ben Amos and Mame Biram Diouf (also on the first team tour).
The core of the side is likely to be formed by Oliver Gill, Joe Dudgeon, Oliver Norwood, Rodrigo Possebon and Cameron Stewart, all key parts of last season’s title-winning side. Craig Cathcart, James Chester, David Gray and Magnus Eikrem may return from the injury problems that prematurely ended their 09/10 campaigns, while Conor Devlin, Scott Wootton, Robbie Brady, Davide Petrucci, Nicky Ajose and Joshua King will all be pushing for inclusion as they enter their first season as fully-fledged members of the reserve squad. Stand out second-year scholars like Will Keane and Paul Pogba should also come into contention with unlimited substitutions offering a great opportunity for Solskjaer to get everyone involved.
Predicting the side is almost totally pointless, given the lack of information about injuries or any sort of form guide, but what the hell, we’ll have a go anyway:
Predicted XI: Conor Devlin; Scott Wootton, Craig Cathcart, Oliver Gill, Joe Dudgeon; Cameron Stewart, Oliver Norwood, Rodrigo Possebon, Magnus Eikrem, Robbie Brady; Joshua King.
There’s no live coverage of this game, so the only way of seeing it live is in person at the Tameside Stadium, where admission is £6 for adults and £2 concessions – directions can be found here. We’ll have a match report up in due course and will bring you any highlights or photos that surface in the coming days – meanwhile, keep an eye on our Twitter page for updates throughout the evening.