When the LA Galaxy face Manchester United Wednesday at the Rose Bowl (8 p.m. Fox Sports 1), the MLS franchise will meet one of the world's great teams on the cusp of a potential era-defining turning point in its glittering history.
The beloved English institution has turned its rebuilding job over to Dutch World Cup manager Louis van Gaal after the brief calamitous tenure of predecessor David Moyes saw United sink to a lowly seventh-place in the EPL. That was the club's worst season since the league began 25 years ago.
Moyes, fired only about 10 months after being hand-picked for the job by revered predecessor Sir Alex Ferguson, arguably the greatest manager in United's long history, has now left the future of one of the world's most popular and wealthiest sports teams hanging precariously in the balance.
From a Galaxy perspective the exhibition game represents a largely unnecessary distraction from MLS. The Galaxy have just come off a stamina-sapping stretch of three MLS games in seven days and then must travel to Seattle to face the Sounders following the game against United, although mercifully the game was pushed back a couple of days until Monday.
Many knowledgable fans are skipping the commuting and cost hassles of the expensive midweek game; plenty of the lowest priced seats were available on the secondary market Monday for about $50, about $10 cheaper than those still available on Ticketmaster.
That's in part because some notable players are absent — including World Cup stars Maroune Fellaini and Robin van Persie — after being granted extended breaks in the wake of the tournament. And others from both teams are likely to see limited action in what is the first of as many as five games in the U.S. for United ahead of the Aug. 16 start of the EPL season.
The game is largely a money-making and awareness-raising venture for the Galaxy in hopes some of those record number of American eyeballs that watched the World Cup might give MLS a peek. Tickets to a Tuesday night United training session in Pasadena are $20, parking for the game itself is $30 and Mexican star Javier Hernandez was belatedly added to the travel squad Friday, presumably to goose flagging ticket sales among Mexican-Americans.
But while the U.S. tour will also afford United a lucrative opportunity to showcase its new 2014-2015 kit, the club's most critical moves will take place off the field.
A wholesale clearout of veterans, fringe players and youngsters who have failed to make the grade is expected by many after the inadequate quality of the club's squad was laid glaringly bare by Ferguson's retirement.
It took the Red Devils the better part of 15 years to replace its first great manager, Sir Matt Busby, with Ferguson and the club literally can't afford a repeat of that with so much more money at stake today.
Van Gaal, who only joined the club last Wednesday, has little time to waste.
Veteran defender Patrice Evra was shipped off Monday to Juventus, presumably to make room for 19-year-old left back Luke Shaw, signed for more than $60 million, a world record for a teenage defender. Spaniard Ander Herrera has also arrived and rumors are running rampant over other prospective recruits despite van Gaal saying he needs to evaluate current players first.
“We are willing to invest,” United vice chair Ed Woodward said last week. “There is no fixed budget. Financially we are extremely strong and funds are available. ... Watch this space.”
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