It takes a while to get going in a game especially at the start of the game, sometimes you can start a little bit slow, but I think we did great today from the first minute. We tried to keep the ball, we didn’t just kick it long with no purpose. —RSL's Albert Rusnak
SANDY — It was just a friendly, and both teams had different objectives, but for nearly 30 minutes on Monday, Real Salt Lake — just a few weeks removed from sitting at the bottom of the MLS standings — more than held its own against one of the biggest clubs in the world.
In fact, one could argue that RSL was the better team in the opening 30 minutes against Manchester United with both teams playing close to their best 11.
RSL starters played only 30 minutes and Manchester United went on to win 2-1, but it was a night to remember indeed.
“We might never play Manchester United here again, so it’s a big opportunity to try and get a win or a good performance over a world-class team. That was my main focus,” said Kyle Beckerman. “Quick 30 minutes and it was fun, and now the focus is back to Portland.”
RSL was sharp early, something that’s actually been difficult this season. The players came out with a purpose in the first half, and confidently attacked and built out of the back without any regard to the name on the opponent’s jersey. It created five pretty decent half-chances in the opening 20 minutes.
“It takes a while to get going in a game especially at the start of the game, sometimes you can start a little bit slow, but I think we did great today from the first minute. We tried to keep the ball, we didn’t just kick it long with no purpose,” said RSL's Albert Rusnak.
It was rewarded for that positive start with a deserved goal in the 23rd minute as Luis Silva chipped home a through ball from Jefferson Savarino for the 1-0 lead against the European giants.
The 1-0 lead over Manchester United lasted just six minutes before the visitors equalized, but there was an unforgettable buzz around Rio Tinto Stadium for those six minutes.
Manchester United leveled the score 1-1 in the 29th minute on a well-struck goal from Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
A minute later Real Salt Lake’s starters exited the match after playing their predetermined 30 minutes with a league match in Portland on Wednesday. Coach Mike Petke was very impressed with the shift turned in by those 11 players.
“To come out against a team like Man United and go up 1-0 and be explosive going forward and definitely balanced throughout, I’m thrilled. I’m thrilled. I’m thrilled for the guys,” said Petke.
For the first-choice 11 on the field, they held their own for 30 minutes against a United team that might’ve looked tired at times as it grinds through its preseason but still has world-class quality.
“What we talked about was taking this game as a stepping stone two days before a very important league game and to put into play the things that we want to see in that game, and I saw it tonight, absolutely. Very impressed with the attacking and balanced throughout,” Petke added.
The 11 players who subbed on in the 30th minute consisted of eight Real Salt Lake players and three RSL Monarchs players. Most notable for the second unit was RSL defender Marcelo Silva, who was making his debut after the team signed him the day before it beat the L.A. Galaxy 6-2 earlier this month.
That group conceded fairly quickly with Manchester United’s summer blockbuster signee Romelu Lukaku scoring in the 38th minute, but it settled down and held its own after that.
The “friendly” nature of the match took a sour turn in the 68th minute when Antonio Valencia went in hard on challenge against Sebastian Saucedo. Valencia was red carded and Saucedo limped off the field very slowly after being looked at by trainers for two or three minutes.
Manchester United coach Jose Mourinho took exception to the red card and the aggressive play of Saucedo that preceded the injury when asked about it after the match. Petke said Valencia's play into Saucedo wasn't malicious, just a hard play by a young kid.
The match was the highest-profile friendly Real Salt Lake has played since hosting Real Madrid at Rice-Eccles Stadium back in 2006.