For the first time in history, Real Salt Lake will square off against the English Premier League giants Manchester United, in a winner-take-all, loser-goes-home, all-the-marbles-on-the-line scenario.
Okay, that last part was bogus, but really, Manchester United will visit Rio Tinto Stadium on July 17th to play a friendly exhibition against our own RSL. This is obviously a little different since the game has no impact on RSL’s season whatsoever, and is purely intended as a way to showcase some extremely high-profile Premier League players, while giving our guys a chance to play against some of the best players in the world. The game can still have a lasting impact on the club, the fans, and the city who will get to see Man U on the pitch up close — which is not something a lot of soccer fans in America have been able to do.
Who are they?
If you’re already pretty familiar with Manchester United, then this will be old news to you. Housed at one of the most well-known grounds in the world, Old Trafford, Man U has been around since 1878, when they were founded as Newton Health LYR, but later rebranded to their current name in 1902. They are 20-time league title holders, 12-time FA Cup winners, three-time UEFA Champions League winners, and have even won the FIFA Club World Cup one time in 2008. They’re the real deal.
The Red Devils have been the home of some of the biggest names in soccer history, including Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Rio Ferdinand, Ryan Giggs, Michael Carrick, Chicharito, Robin van Persie, Juan Mata, Paul Scholes — the list goes on and on and on.
Manager Jose Mourinho, who took the reigns in 2016 after leaving his post at Chelsea, finished his first season with the Devils in sixth place in the Premier League table — one spot lower than they’d finished the previous year. The club is now on their third manager since the legendary Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, after spending 27 years at the helm.
RSL is one of only two MLS teams that Man U will face off against on this year’s iteration of their USA tour, the other team being our Western Conference foes LA Galaxy. After the stop in Sandy, they’ll go on to play against cross-town rivals Manchester City, Real Madrid, and Barcelona on their last three US stops before they head back overseas.
The biggest headline coming into this game is that Zlatan Ibrahimovic will not be with the team after he suffered a knee injury back in April that has kept him off the pitch ever since. There have been plenty of reports swirling around him, speculating where he will go next as he hasn’t singed a new contract with the team.
In addition to Zlatan’s absence, Wayne Rooney will also be missing from the roster, as he’s just completed a signing with Everton and will no longer play for the Devils after spending 13 years in Manchester.
So, who’s left if arguably the two biggest names on the roster are now gone? Don’t fret, because there’s a whole slew of big stars coming our way on Monday, which include Paul Pogba, new signing Romelu Lukaku, Juan Mata, David de Gea, Michael Carrick, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia, Anthony Martial, Marouane Fellaini, and plenty more.
What to expect
While we may not get to see every single big-name player on the field, they’re all listed on Mourinho’s US tour roster that was announced just a few days ago, and with no limit on how many substitutions can be made in an exhibition match, there’s a good chance we’ll see a lot of them.
RSL has a quick turnaround from this game as they head to Portland to take on the Timbers just two days later, so we can definitely expect our preferred starters to see a limited amount of playing time. Don’t be shocked if Plata, Rusnak, Savarino, Beckerman, and all the rest only play 30 minutes each. While providing plenty of rest for those guys before they head to Oregon, it’ll also give a bunch of the younger guys — including Monarchs players — to head into the game and have the honor of playing against Manchester United.
The visitors are expected to do the same. They play the Galaxy just two days before heading to Sandy, plus Mourinho will want to get his younger guys plenty of preseason experience before they begin league play next month.
No matter what the scoreline is, we can all agree it’ll be an entertaining game to watch, and somewhat of a thrill to see those big-name players on the field at Rio Tinto Stadium.
When: Monday, July 17th, 8:00PM
Where: Rio Tinto Stadium — Sandy, Utah