SC Braga (h) Friendly
Alan penalty 0-1
ďI think there is a lot of players still to move in this window. I think we will be involved in that. There are some big transfers that have been mooted that havenít happened yet and whether they happen or not will have an affect on other events.
"Whether there is a lot of action, well I would be surprised. Players are on international duty and I donít think there will be too many transfers this week.
"You want to keep hold of your best players and Yohan (Cabaye) is one of the best in the world, in my opinion. He has been a fantastic asset for us and has conducted himself in the right manner through all the speculation, and I admire him for that. It can only be good for his confidence if more and more clubs get involved Ė good luck to him.
"We looked at last season when we didnít do so well from corners. We are not the biggest side, so we need to be a little more constructive and imaginative from our corners.
"There were some highlights today. Hatem Ben Arfa looked stronger and fitter; Papiss Cisse looks ready to go. Yohan had some great play, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Steven Taylor and Fabricio Coloccini look good and are ready to go.
"It wasnít really the pace I would have wanted with a week to
go before the season, but thatís the pace Portuguese teams play at. We got a really good workout and we had some bonuses out of the
game. The only real disappointment was that Jonas Gutierrez got an injury
that weíll have to assess.
"Haris (Vuckic) wasnít involved as Iím looking to loan him out. Itís important, at his age, that he gets some football under his belt after the injuries heís had.Ē
Clad in new black and white halved shirts, United concluded their public pre-season programme on Saturday night with an unconvincing
stalemate against Portuguese opposition who extended their own unbeaten friendly
record to nine games.
The game almost got off to a spectacular start when Coloccini drove just wide within the first two minutes of play, but the promise of that bright opening soon faded with visiting 'keeper Eduardo a spectator until palming away a Papiss Cisse effort on nineteen minutes.
With moments to go before the interval, Braga hadn't been sighted as an attacking force, but the merest of contacts by Mathieu Debuchy on Felipe Pardo saw the Colombian winger theatrically tumble over and hapless whistler Lee Mason point to the spot.
Unfortunately the nannyish tendencies of referee Mason and the continued playacting of the Braga players were the most noteworthy aspects of a tepid second half, aside from United's rare scoring success from a corner kick - an
Goalscorer Coloccini illegally halted a 65th minute Braga breakaway by wrestling Yazalde Gomes Pinto to the floor as he sped towards Tim Krul's goal, but managed to avoid what would have been a second red card of pre-season and was merely booked.
The withdrawal of both Shola Ameobi and Cisse left United with only Yoan Gouffran as a recognised attacker, but he almost salvaged a victory with five minutes to play - only to be ruled offside as he diverted Yohan Cabaye's wayward shot home from close range.
Reluctantly subscribing to the logic that the results of these kickabouts are meaningless (although an occasional bout of accurate shooting practice might be nice to witness), there are a couple of positives to be taken compared to our state of readiness 12 months ago.
Although still looking something off his fighting weight, a further runout for Hatem Ben Arfa took his pitch time in pre-season past the four hour mark - compared to the 45 minutes he managed before scoring the winner in last season's Premier League opener against Spurs. A second 45 minute outing for Tim Krul meanwhile hopefully means that he'll be OK to go between the posts against Manchester City, having missed the final five games of last season after undergoing shoulder surgery.
While Gabriel Obertan returned after missing the last three friendlies, there was still no sign of either Massadio Haidara or Gael Bigirimana on the field.
So, what we learnt since the side first took to the field at Motherwell in mid-July? Remarkably little.
The biggest positive in terms of Alan Pardew's standing with the fans since last season limped to its miserable conclusion is a certain collective sympathy for having been landed with JFK the pantomime villain (or 'Billy the Fib', as he's referred to in some quarters....)
On reflection, that's not really much better than crouching in a doorway accompanied by a dog with a bandaged paw. And although Kinnear's outbursts have been a mild diversion so far this summer, once he gets past oblique references to others failing to get bodies over that mythical line, Pardew will once again have the spotlight all to himself once the transfer window shuts.
On that basis he's going to have to buck his ideas up quickly, although this week's excuses were at least original: the wrong sort of lawnmower at Ibrox and the wrong sort of opposition here today - Portuguese teams lacking the intensity required for Premier League preparation. That'll be why we've played three of them this pre-season and faced Braga in 2012.
As ever round these parts there are more questions than answers and we're deluded enough to think that two pages of comments from captain Colo in the match programme would have found space in amongst the meaningless platitudes about great fans supporting the team pre-season in Portugal etc. to mention San Lorenzo and his own personal future.
The reliance on Shola Ameobi and Jonas Gutierrez in pre-season is as depressing as it is predictable, while the bit-part players such as Marveaux, Obertan and Anita remain enigmatic. However the true folly of this pre-season is perhaps summed up in the positive impression made by the fringe trio of Paul Dummett, Sammy Ameobi and Dan Gosling.
Although raised by Pardew beyond the realms of reality, Dummy has done absolutely nothing wrong and benefited from his time in Scotland. But like Sammy and his less than sparkling loan spell at the smoggies, it's all meaningless in terms of the real stuff.
In normal circumstances they won't be involved, because they're not good enough. End of. Go back 12 months and it was James Tavernier, Romain Amalfitano and Mehdi Abeid who ended pre-season with glowing report cards and high hopes.
The fact there's absolutely no excuse for not playing full-strength sides in both domestic cup competitions this season means that the fringe lads really shouldn't get a look in, unless United become active in the transfer market and squad numbers become available.
Gosling takes the biscuit though - looking among our best performers when getting on the field, despite the still-unexplained breakdown of his move to Crystal Palace. Presumably he's busting a gut to try and get away, but something of his industry would have been nice to see from a few of his more illustrious colleagues in recent weeks, in particular the liability that is Cheick Tiote.
The uncomfortable reality is that in the absence of any permanent additions to the squad, toon fans have been left to evaluate the recruitment process that's gone on at other Premier League clubs.
Rather than the likes of Spurs and Liverpool though, the focus is on comings and goings at Hull, Palace, Norwich, Cardiff, Stoke and the mackems - looking to make a case for three sides to finish below us. That certainly appears to be the summit of Mike Ashley's ambition - just to be making the numbers up at the Premier League party, travelling in third class on the gravy train.
It seems to have been largely forgotten that we finished five points off relegation last season, securing our top-flight status in the 37th game. At this point, nothing has changed since last season. And God knows there was plenty in need of alteration.
The blip was explainable though (apparently), due to injuries and the Europa League. Our thinking this season is therefore to reduce the squad size by getting rid of regulars like James Perch and Danny Simpson (due to the fact we'll be playing less games) but keep hold of said injury-prone players. Those who saw the January player influx as August's business done early were right.
While there's much gnashing and grinding of teeth round these parts over the lack of transfer activity though, we remain as concerned by the fact there's little or no discernible pattern of play throughout the club. A failure to effectively organise and deploy the resources we possess is the real hangover from last season, along with deficiencies in taking and defending set pieces.
A straw poll of those still actively watching suggests that the club has succeeded in dampening expectations to an alarming degree, with the most optimistic viewpoint suggesting consolidation amid the expected off-field blood-letting.
PS: after further expressions of respect today, can we now please put away the universal cloak of Sir Bobbyness, curtailing all wistful references from managers and players in interviews to Robson's time in charge of Newcastle, Barcelona, England and/or the Festival of Britain Electricians XI.
He was great, it's all great, the charitable legacy is great. Attempts by his successors to summon up his spirit however are unwelcome, unhelpful and crass. The only sentiment expressed that struck a chord with us was that he would be greatly saddened by this shell of a football club, continuing to reduce the off-field head count despite the apparent financial bonanza.
If they rename the ground again, we'd be tempted to suggest Bleak House.