CHICAGO (AP) — Rafael Da Silva scored in the 76th minute to give Manchester United the lead, and the English soccer powerhouse went on to beat the Chicago Fire 3-1 in an exhibition match at Soldier Field on Saturday.
Da Silva dribbled through the defense, then used his left foot to flip the ball through the legs of Fire backup goalkeeper Jon Conway, breaking a 1-1 tie. Nani scored for United in the 82nd minute.
Wayne Rooney’s chip-in goal tied the game in the 66th minute.
A sold-out crowd of 61,308 saw the preseason debut for new United goalkeeper David de Gea, who allowed an early goal but recovered to make some nice saves in his first action with his new team.
With temperatures in the 90s and oppressively high humidity in Chicago, United manager Alex Ferguson went with a young starting lineup — and it showed early on, as United’s defense looked shaky at times and the Fire exploited it to take the lead in the first half.
Chicago took a 1-0 lead in the 13th minute when a long free kick by Marco Pappa was headed into the back of the net by Fire defender Cory Gibbs. Chicago went on to hold long stretches of possession for much of the first half and created a few more scoring chances — including a hard shot by forward Cristian Nazarit that went just wide of goal in the 32nd minute.
The lead would hold up going into halftime, and it briefly appeared as though the Fire, who are near the bottom of the standings in the MLS’ Eastern Conference, would save some face for the MLS after United trounced its first two opponents on its U.S. tour.
United routed its first two MLS opponents, beating the New England Revolution 4-1 and the Seattle Sounders 7-0 on Wednesday– although the Seattle game was close at halftime, with United leading 1-0.
Saturday’s game featured the much-anticipated debut of De Gea, who left Atletico Madrid to join the Premier League champions in the offseason. He did not play in the first two legs of United’s U.S. tour. He is expected to be the long-term replacement for Edwin Van der Sar, who retired at the end of last season, but hasn’t been handed the starting job yet.
De Gea recently helped Spain win the European under-21 championship.
De Gea made an impressive save just before halftime, diving to stop a close-range shot from Chicago’s Patrick Nyarko.
United brought in some star power in the second half, bringing Rooney, Ryan Giggs, Ji-Sung Park and Rio Ferdinand off the bench. Then the Fire squandered a golden scoring chance early in the second half, as Baggio Husidic whiffed on a wide-open shot in front of the goal.
Rooney made an impact as a substitute, slipping past Fire defender Josip Mikulic, controlling the ball and lofting it softly over Conway to erase the Fire’s 1-0 lead.
Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson made some nice saves before being substituted for at the half.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.