United return from Sweden in decent shape

Posted by Mark Payne

After Manchester United's 1-1 draw with AIK in Stockholm Tuesday night, David Moyes sat down to face a familiar barrage of questions. He was prepared to be quizzed on Wayne Rooney and ready to evade queries about United’s transfer targets. While the world wonders about Cesc Fabregas and Chelsea's next bid for Rooney, Moyes' United are slowly finding their feet.

Considering he has faced as many questions in his first month with United as he did in his final year with Everton, he should be commended for not rolling his eyes at every question about Rooney that comes his way. "I don’t need to convince anybody to play for Manchester United," said Moyes after the match.

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The truth of this could be seen in the largely ignored but energetic performances on the pitch, which featured excellent displays from Nani and Wilfried Zaha. Moyes fielded the wingers in accompaniment to Robin van Persie and this was indicative of how he hopes the side will line up at Swansea on Aug. 17 in the Premier League opener -- with real attacking intent.

Unfortunately, United did not take the early lead their play deserved. Although Nani and Zaha were wispy and difficult to track, their chances were not turned into goals. Van Persie looked a bit ring-rusty, and one wonders whether this would be under more scrutiny if he were English and from Liverpool.

AIK are in the middle of their season and only two points from the top of their league. They are also in the middle of a great run of form that has seen them win four out of their last five. Manchester United have just flown around the entire planet playing showpiece football in a variety of time zones. To register a creditable draw in these circumstances is a reasonable feat.

When United did go a goal down, it was to a strike so ludicrously good it should be should be framed and put in the Louvre. If Robin Quaison’s goal had come in a competitive match rather than a friendly, we might be discussing a goal of the season contender. Anders Lindegaard could not be blamed. In fact, the Dane's performance was one of his more solid ones and included several David de Gea-esque reaction saves. United struck back within five minutes.

To see Zaha and Angelo Henriquez combine for the equaliser was a true Manchester United moment. The club’s spirit is always found in the exploits of young players breaking into the first team. It is this that will have pleased Moyes more than anything else. How many questions was he asked about it? Zero.

The defence submitted a mixed report after the match. Rafael was superb last season but he was wayward in Sweden and will need to up his concentration levels back in England. The huge news was that Nemanja Vidic came through the match unscathed and fighting fit. "It's a long time since I've played a full game,” boomed the Serb after the match.

So to sum up their tour: Manchester United scored a few goals and conceded a couple. The defence needs a bit more time to settle and the strikers are a bit rusty. The squad could also do with a new addition. In short, United look like a team in preseason, which is exactly what they are. But they will be ready when the big show starts against Swansea. No doubt Moyes will have to face the same questions, though. He is probably used to it already.

Follow Mark on twitter @markjpayne


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