[Pre-season] Valerenga 0-0 Manchester United
Manchester United's pre-season preparations continued with a hard-fought, yet entertaining goalless draw with Valerenga in Norway.
Nemanja Vidic completed an hour's action in his first outing since last December, while several more senior players returned after a summer's exertions on the international stage. One of them, the lively Danny Welbeck, had the majority of United's clearer openings, but either failed to hit the target or met with the resistance of impressive Valerenga goalkeeper Gudmund Kongshavn. Substitutes Anderson and Chicharito both came close to nabbing late winners, while a half-hour cameo from Shinji Kagawa demonstrated the Japanese star's burgeoning understanding with his new attacking cohorts.
Assistant manager Mike Phelan took the helm in the absence of Sir Alex Ferguson, who remained in Manchester, and the stand-in gaffer was dealt a late selection dilemma when Patrice Evra returned home on Sunday morning to rejoin his wife, who had gone into labour. The result was an unexpected start for reigning Reserves Player of the Year, Michael Keane, at left-back. On the opposite flank, Antonio Valencia deputised while Nani slotted into the right wing berth ahead of the Ecuadorian. The Portuguese was one of four players making their first pre-season outing after partaking in the Euro 2012 - alongside Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Ashley Young - while Phil Jones and David De Gea started on the bench.
It took until the 18th minute for the game's first noteworthy attempt, as Bojan Zajic flashed a 20-yard effort across Anders Lindegaard's goal, but the majority of the game had been spent in Valerenga's defensive third, with Danny Welbeck and Nani frequently involved, while Paul Scholes' metronomic passing dominated a game being conducted at three-quarter pace in the Norwegian sunshine.
Increasingly, United's attackers began to chance their arm. Young and Scholes had shots blocked and Rooney's free-kick struck the top of the wall, but the hosts' massed central defensive ranks proved difficult to navigate.
Valerenga responded with a Mohammed Fellah effort which hurtled over from 30 yards, but United finished the first half in the ascendancy, as Welbeck curled an effort comfortably wide from the edge of the area, had a volley deflected wide and then nodded a Rooney cross narrowly over the bar.
With five minutes of the opening period remaining, the England strike duo combined in delightful fashion as Rooney released Welbeck, only for the Longsight-born striker to lose control of the ball under heavy pressure. Then, twice before the break, Welbeck brought the best from goalkeeper Gudmund Kongshavn.
First, superb interplay between Nani and Valencia culminated in Kongshavn fending away Welbeck's arrowed snapshot, then the home stopper flung himself to his right to tip the striker's low effort around the post. Rooney glanced a superb Young cross past the post with United's final attempt of the half, but Ahmed Suleiman's header inched past Lindegaard's upright in injury-time as the interval arrived with the scoreline blank.
The deadlock might have been broken in the 50th minute, but Rooney couldn't get the requisite power or purchase on Nani's cross, and the striker's header drifted harmlessly over the bar. Fellah headed just wide from a similar position for the hosts, before Shinji Kagawa and Anderson were introduced at the expense of Welbeck and Vidic.
Both substitutes had a quick impact on play. Anderson's free-kick was well fielded by substitute goalkeeper Lars Hirschfeld, before neat approach play from Kagawa culminated in Nani blasting over the bar. The hosts retained a threat, however, and Chuma Anene came close twice in quick succession; firstly as his shot was deflected wide by Michael Carrick, then secondly as his header was dramatically cleared off the line by Rooney.
It was always United who looked most likely to break the deadlock, however, and Valencia's drilled cross-shot came agonisingly close to putting the visitors ahead. That miss heralded another trio of changes, with Rooney, Scholes and Young making way for Chicharito, Jesse Lingard and Nick Powell. The little Mexican striker was inches away from turning in a late winner when Nani and Kagawa combined superbly, but Chicharito was just unable to reach the Japanese playmaker's fizzed cross.
With little more than a minute remaining, the same outcome met another slick United move. This time, after Kagawa had released Valencia, the Ecuadorian's cross was stabbed towards goal by Chicharito, only for Hirschfeld to trap the ball with his body.
He was beaten in injury-time as Anderson strode forward and unleashed a curling effort, but the Brazilian's shot also cleared the crossbar by a matter of millimetres, ensuring a goalless outcome.
Nevertheless, invaluable game-time for United's senior stars, including the all-important presence of skipper Vidic, constituted a largely positive afternoon's work on a tour which now heads to Gothenburg for a high-profile summit with Barcelona.
United: Lindegaard; Valencia, Vidic (Anderson 61), Ferdinand, M Keane; Nani, Carrick, Scholes (Powell 75), Young (Lingard 75); Rooney (Chicharito 76), Welbeck (Kagawa 61). Subs not used: De Gea, Jones, Berbatov, Macheda.