MLS vs. Manchester United: Head to head positional breakdown

From back to front, the All-Star Game will be a tight battle




Held out of LA's 4-1 loss in the CCL on Tuesday night, Donovan Ricketts should get the start he so richly deserves. His size and commanding presence in the box are enough to handle anything thrown at him. Consistent and athletic, backup Nick Rimando brings the experience of winning the MLS Cup.

GOALKEEPING

  

Edwin van der Sar is one of the world's best, even at age 39. In any game, he makes all the saves he has to plus one or two he probably shouldn't. Number 2 Tomasz Kuszczak is big, but has not shown the kind of consistent quality required of a Man United keeper.

Any combination of Chad Marshall, Omar Gonzalez, and Jamison Olave provide enough muscle to handle anything thrown at them, while Heath Pearce bring the speed and the excitement, getting forward on the flanks. Kevin Alston and Wilman Conde aren't bad to have coming off the bench, either.

DEFENDERS

It looks like Wes Brown and Jonny Evans will get the start in the middle, with the da Silva twins, Rafael and Fabio, on the wings. Size and experience--other than Brown--is not an advantage among this group, but speed, poise and tenacity are.

Shalrie Joseph is expected to line up as the spine of the MLS midfield, just as he has been for years at New England. He's joined by some ferocious attack-first fireballs in David Ferreira, Javier Morales, and Marco Pappa. That trio will get forward early and often, but can Joseph do all the defensive work?

MIDFIELDERS

Experience is the buzzword of Sir Alex's midfield, with graying legends like Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs holding court. Portuguese dynamo Nani and star-of-tomorrow Darron Gibson inject youthful energy capable of breaking any match open. 

Edson Buddle and Landon Donovan both started in LA's CCL game, which means Arena will probably line up a South American strikeforce. Juan Pablo Angel and Guillermo Barros Schelotto have enough experience and brilliance to beat any defense.

FORWARDS

Dimitar Berbatov, the Bulgarian assassin, looks set to start alongside youngster Danny Welbeck, giving Man United a mix of cool efficiency and burgeoning energy. And at some point, Mexican sensation Chicharito will come on, full of expectation and talent. 

Bruce Arena is the most successful coach in US history, having won two MLS Cups and led the US national team to the quarterfinals of the World Cup. He's a genius at man-management and has the sense simply to let his players play and his talents show their stuff in a semi-serious situation like an All-Star Game.

MANAGER

Sir Alex Ferguson is the most successful coach in English history, having won 11 EPL championships and two Champions League titles. He doesn't have his full complement of players--no Rooney, no Vidic, etc.--but he is Sir Alex for a reason: because he knows how to win. Period.

Due to the CCL games on Tuesday, the MLS squad boasts an incredibly potent backup plan, including Donovan, Buddle and Dwayne De Rosario. Philly's Sebastien Le Toux is one of the league's hottest attackers right now, and he's versatile enough to slip into the midfield. Plus, the local fans will be clamoring for Brian Ching and Brad Davis.

BENCH

Other than steady midfielder John O'Shea and French sensation Gabriel Obertan, the Man United bench doesn't boast much to instill fear in anyone. Young Italian striker Federico Macheda is a decent option, but he will struggle against MLS' big defenders.
This is one of the most talented and unpredictable MLS sides in recent All-Star history. There is size and power in the back that could be devastating on set pieces, too. There is skill and pace in the attack that can unlock defenses and finish with aplomb.

OVERALL

Against the All-Stars, Sir Alex looks set to field the best side he has so far on Man United's North American tour. But talented as the group is, the combination of age and relative inexperience will have trouble to break down the MLS side.