Testimonials often boast their fair share of flicks and tricks, and there were some of those at Windsor Park. In the main, though, both sides treated the match, and each other, with plenty of respect, preferring economical rather than exhibition football... at least for the first 45 minutes.
Sir Alex made two changes at the break and handed Luke Giverin, a young full-back who’s turned out at both Academy and Reserves level this term, his first taste of first-team action. Giverin and the rest of the Reds defence were under the cosh almost immediately from the restart. Indeed, the Irish League XI drew level on 48 minutes through Chris Scannell’s close-range header.
Scannell had, just 60 seconds earlier, drawn a smart save from Anders Lindegaard to force a corner. Then, from the resulting set-piece, the Dane was again called into action, parrying well from Howard Beverland’s acrobatic volley. The ball came back into the danger area, though, and Scannell made no mistake from four yards.
Ashley Young restored the Reds’ advantage on 58 minutes when he curled in a direct free-kick from the edge of the penalty area. That prompted the introduction of Wayne Rooney, much to the delight of the 14,098 spectators, and United’s top marksman took just three minutes to get on the scoresheet, blasting home from the penalty spot after Craig Redman brought down Tom Cleverley.
Ben Amos, on for Lindegaard between the posts, did well to preserve the lead with some brave goalkeeping, before Sir Alex made a further three changes for the final 20 minutes. On came Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and young Italian defender Michele Fornasier – reward for another consistent season in the Reserves.
Scholes came close to extending the lead with a trademark volley before Young grabbed his second of the night to cap good work by Ji-sung Park down the right-hand side. The Reds continued to throw bodies forward but the Belfast crowd – made up largely of United fans – had to be content with just the five goals.