By AVI CREDITOR
HARRISON, N.J. — Major League Soccer's commitment to righting the wrong that was last year's All-Star Game result against Manchester United went unfulfilled.
Anderson and game MVP Ji-Sung Park scored in the first half, and Dimitar Berbatov added one early in the second half to essentially seal the deal, as Manchester United topped the MLS All-Stars for the second straight year, winning, 4-0, Wednesday night in front of a capacity crowd of 26,760 at Red Bull Arena.
Substitute Danny Welbeck added a fourth for United in the 68th minute to cap the rout, as his shot from just outside the area deflected off Houston Dynamo centerback Geoff Cameron and wrong-footed goalkeeper Tally Hall.
The MLS All-Stars, which fell to United last year in Houston by a 5-2 scoreline, generated a handful of chances, especially in the opening half hour, when the balance of play was more even.
Houston's Brad Davis had a chance in the 19th minute after being played into the area by Colorado Rapids striker Omar Cummings, but he slipped and hit his left-footed shot right to Manchester United goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard.
On the ensuing trip down the other side of the field, Manchester United struck to open the scoring. Berbatov and Wayne Rooney combined to find Anderson with a one-touch passing sequence at the top of the box. The Brazilian found his way into the area and slipped a low shot by Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon in the 20th minute.
"We had some chances to score maybe one or two, and that makes a difference when you play a team like Manchester United," New York Red Bulls forward Thierry Henry said. "Whenever they have one chance, they score."
David Beckham's blast from outside the area in the 23rd minute almost leveled the score, but Linegaard came up with a stellar diving save to prevent the goal.
When it looked like the MLS All-Stars would head into halftime with a managable one-goal deficit, Park came through with perhaps the defining moment of the game.
The South Korean midfielder ran at Sean Franklin in the box, turning the Los Angeles Galaxy right back around completely. With the space he created, Park laced a shot inside the far post in the 45th minute to double United's lead.
"They took their chances," MLS All-Stars manager Hans Backe said. "They are a little bit sharper in the attacking third."
Backe deployed a surprise 4-3-3 formation with Beckham, the only MLS player to go the full 90 minutes, in a defensive midfield role that afforded him the space to spray passes around the field. He was joined in the midfield by Davis and Shalrie Joseph and had wingers Henry and Cummings make runs down the flanks and into space.
"If you play Man United … playing a 4-4-2 against them, you will lose," Backe said. "They're better individual players on every position, so you need to do something different."
One of those top individual players, Rooney, set up Berbatov in the 52nd minute to make the scoreline 3-0.
Despite being serenaded with cheers of "Our Rooney's better" by Red Bulls fans in the South Ward (who were referring to Wayne's younger brother, Red Bulls midfielder John Rooney) the elder Rooney chipped a perfect ball to Berbatov, in stride. The Bulgarian ran onto the pass at the top of the box and chipped a shot over Hall and off the crossbar before hitting home his own rebound.
Rooney was frustrated early by Real Salt Lake defender Jamison Olave, though, who on a couple of occasions muscled Rooney off the ball to the delight of the MLS fans in attendance. Olave tweaked his knee when coming up with a counter-attack-stopping tackle on a pass headed to Rooney and had to exit in the 38th minute.
The early diagnosis is an MCL sprain, and Olave said that he would be evaluated upon his return to Utah.
Cameron replaced him as the first of Backe's 11 substutitions — which included a late cameo for retiring Seattle goalkeeper Kasey Keller. Five of those substitutes were made at halftime, which drastically changed the complexion of the MLS lineup.
MLS still managed a couple of chances, with Chris Wondolowski's shot from distance in the 64th minute being parried right to Omar Bravo on the doorstep. The Sporting Kansas City Designated Player forced his shot wide, though, and Welbeck scored four minutes later to ice the match.
Beckham nearly saved some face for MLS with an 88th-minute free kick, after Juan Agudelo was taken down outside the United box. Beckham's dipping effort missed the lower left corner, though, and hit into the side netting.
"Obviously they're a great side," Wondolowski said. "We had a couple chances, but it was just one of those games where, especially against a team like that, if you don't finish your chances, you get punished."
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