Morgan Schneiderlin scores the only goal in the fifth minutes of Man U’s 1-0 victory
The yellow smoke bomb was lit around the 20th minute, providing an early reminder that this wasn’t your average night at CenturyLink Field — just in case the colorful mishmash of international soccer jerseys roaming the concourses hadn’t already clued you in.
Manchester United opened its 2015 preseason Friday night in Seattle. And even if these North American tours now happen often enough that once-in-a-lifetime is probably an exaggeration, and even though the past two seasons haven’t been the Red Devils’ finest, this was still United.
Club America might not have the global Q rating of the 20-time English champions, though good luck telling that to the pyrotechnic crew up in section 326. Both groups of fans made their presence felt.
An announced crowd of 46,857 watched Man United win 1-0 courtesy of Morgan Schneiderlin’s fifth-minute goal Friday night at CenturyLink.
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The Club America fans unveiled a banner behind the south goal that read “La Que Manda En 2 Paises” — “the Boss in 2 Countries” — but they were far outnumbered on the night. The stadium was at least 75 percent red, with United-themed flags representing American fan groups from Atlanta to Huntington Beach.
The result itself felt almost beside the point. The match is part of the 2015 “International Champions Cup,” which is a far slicker name than the more accurate “Preseason Exhibition Match.”
This was a night about flashpoints, memories, the chance to one day brag “I was there when Morgan Schneiderlin scored his first goal in a Manchester United shirt.”
His goal came less than five minutes in, a well-placed header of a softly lofted Juan Mata cross. That score held through the halftime break, after which United swapped out its entire lineup.
Wayne Rooney, Memphis Depay and Daley Blind were among those who came off. Bastian Schweinsteiger was part of the crew that followed them on.
“It was 45 minutes,” Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal said when asked what he learned about his team. “No lineup is the lineup that will play in the first match against Tottenham Hotspur.”
They are preparing for Year 2 of the van Gaal reclamation project, a return to the Champions League after a season in the wilderness. Schneiderlin, Schweinsteiger and Depay are all new signings, as is Matteo Darmian, who started at right back. Chemistry is still clearly a work-in-progress.
Club America is the defending CONCACAF Champions League winner, a longtime powerhouse in the tournament Seattle will play in starting next month. It, too, is in its preseason. It, too, showed its quality only in flashes.
The crowd didn’t seem to mind. It just cheered all the louder for every highlight. The Mexican wave even surged its way around CenturyLink in the second half, fans creating their own action as the game started to slow.
“We’re very proud to play against a team like Manchester United,” Club America manager Ignacio Ambriz said through a translator, “when typically, you only get to watch them on TV. … I asked the players to go have fun, to enjoy the game.”