The Full 90

Manchester United Week, Day 3: Players you know, players you will know soon

As with any preseason tour in the upper echelons of professional soccer, the team on tour usually brings a mixture of veterans and youth players. The idea being to give the veterans a chance to get match fit while the youngsters have a chance to show if they belong on the team.

For Manchester United, the World Cup threw a monkey wrench into their plans and they've had to leave a number of big-name stars off the roster to allow them to rest. This is why forward Wayne Rooney, defenders Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic, and midfielders Park Ji-Sung and Michael Carrick aren't participating in this tour. Injuries to defenders Rio Ferdinand and Gary Neville, and forward Michael Owen have also kept them off the team for now.

But this isn't a "B" team. Not by any stretch. Here are five veteran players worth the price of admission alone on Sunday and five youngsters worth keeping your eye on.*

*If you can't wait for Sunday to see Manchester United, they will be on ESPN2 at 6:30 p.m. this evening facing the Philadelphia Union. 1. Ryan Giggs


The Welsh Wizard is one of the greatest left-sided attacking players ever. More than that, he's likely to go down his history as one of the best players to never feature in a World Cup (alongside Alfredo Di Stefano, George Weah, Ian Rush and fellow Manchester United alums Eric Cantona, Duncan Edwards and George Best). By playing in one game this season, he will be the only player to feature in at least one game in every Premiership season. (Goalkeeper David James was relegated with Portsmouth for this season, or he'd join him.)

Giggs is responsible for

one of the greatest individual goals I've ever seen

.

He will turn 37 this year, but he's still going strong and has shown he has plenty left in the tank.

You cannot prove that I shed a tear of happiness after watching that video for the first time. 2. Paul Scholes


The ginger-haired assassin (part ginger, part ninja ... a "ginja" if you will) has been an integral part of the team since 1994, and was part of the famed Manchester United youth team that developed Giggs, David Beckham, Gary and Phil Neville and Nicky Butt in the early '90s. He's one of the finest passers in the game, able to distribute 60-yard passes with pinpoint accuracy. He's fallen off in the last few years and was never known for his tackling ability, but that didn't stop England boss Fabio Capello from inquiring whether the 36-year-old would un-retire for the 2010 World Cup.

3. Dimitar Berbatov

The Bulgarian striker has his detractors. He replaced the popular Carlos Tevez last year and his perceived lack of a work ethic didn't endear him with Tevez fans. His skill and talent have never been in question, but the best phrase to describe Berba is "laid back." He never appears to exert much, but once the ball is at his feet, it's nearly impossible to remove it. A lot is riding on him this season, and, if the Celtic game last Friday is any indication, he seems up for the challenge. I also can't escape the fact that he looks like a vampire.

4. Edwin Van der Sar

The most capped player in Netherlands history has been the main 'keeper for the Red Devils since 2005. Sir Alex Ferguson considers EVDS to be the best man in goal for the team since Peter Schmeichel. At 39 going on 40 in October, he's not got many years left at this level. He's also coming off hand surgery last year that robbed him of the first few months. But goalkeepers seem to age like fine wine and EVDS is no exception. A replacement will likely be purchased at some point this season, but he's not giving up this spot until 2011-2012.

5. Nani

The tricky Portuguese winger was scheduled to play a part in the World Cup this year before a shoulder injury derailed the youngster's dream. He would've been a starter too. He's almost fully recovered and is expected to make his return either tonight in Philly or Sunday in KC.

Also worthy of inclusion: Scottish captain Darren Fletcher, Irish utilityman John O'Shea and Ecuadorian winger Antonio Valencia.


Five players you will know a lot about soon

1. Gabriel Obertan

The 21-year-old Frenchman is expected to assume the role that Cristiano Ronaldo perfected with the Red Devils some day. He's shown a ton of promise (and that he has the step-over down pat) in limited showings to this point. He should be a fixture on the team this year.

2. Tom Cleverley

The 20-year-old product of the team's youth system had a brilliant season on loan with Watford last year and should be a fixture with the team sometime in the future. He'll likely go out on loan again this year (with other talented and older players like Mame Diouf and Darron Gibson* getting a shot above him). He scored a deflected goal in the first game of this tour.

*Gibson is another lad for the future. But the young Irishman has been given a leave to return to home for the funeral of his grandmother. 3. Rafael and Fabio da Silva

The completely identical Brazilian twins (Fabio wears a wedding ring, and is the only way to tell them apart) play right and left back, respectively. At just 20 years old, they have a bright future ahead of them. Before a poor run of form at the end of the season, Rafael had supplanted Gary Neville as the first-choice right back. Fabio sits behind Patrice Evra and is used for cover at this time.

4. Chris Smalling

During this tour, the recently purchased centerback from Fulham will anchor the middle next to fellow youngster Jonny Evans. (I'd have put Evans in this category, but he was deployed so often last year because of injuries, he's hardly an unknown anymore.) The team signed Smalling on potential, as he wasn't a standout with Fulham. But the team could use some cover, as defenders Wes Brown, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Gary Neville and John O'Shea were all injured at some point last season. A lot is expected of him, but he had a poor first game on this tour, giving up a poor penalty kick.

5. Federico Macheda

The teenage Italian prodigy has had only a few chances to shine in a Manchester United uniform, but he's seized them by the throat. As a 17-year-old, he came on in the 60th minute with United losing to Aston Villa and scored the game-winner from the edge of the box in injury time. A legend was born. He spent most of the 2009-10 season on the injured list or playing in reserve games. He is expected to play a much larger role this year as the primary substitute for Dimitar Berbatov.

  Comments