Man U. battles Thailand for narrow victory


BANGKOK, AFP

Manchester United narrowly claimed victory in a hard-fought friendly against the Thai national side Sunday, scraping together a 2-1 scoreline at the packed-out Rajamangala Stadium. Bangkok’s largest sporting venue was a sea of red as some 60,000 Thai fans displayed both their patriotism and their love of the English glamour side by waving Thai flags while proudly wearing Manchester United jerseys. Thailand came out hard in the first 10 minutes, frustrating the visitors’ efforts to control the ball until well into the first half, before Ryan Giggs eventually put his team on the scoreboard in the 29th minute. Spurred into action, Thailand stepped up its speed and made several exciting attempts at the goal.

In the 33rd minute Tawan Sripan took full advantage as defender Denis Irwin failed to clear the ball away, allowing the Thai midfielder to boot it home in elegant fashion. By the second half Manchester United had established almost total control of the match, and Thailand was reduced to making limited forays from the right wing. However, the national side’s strong performance fended off another Red Devils goal until 12 minutes before the final whistle, when substitute Dwight Yorke headed United to victory. Tawan and Yorke were voted Men of the Match. The man many of the fans had come to see, superstar player David Beckham, made trouble for Thailand in the first half but was rested for the rest of the match which was played out in stiflingly humid conditions. Newly signed Argentine midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron was also taken off at half time, after an unremarkable outing. Thailand’s creditable performance compared with the 8-1 thrashing Manchester United meted out to the Singapore national side and the 6-0 humiliation of Malaysia on earlier stops of their Asian tour. More than 1,000 Thai police have been on duty for the visit, which has preoccupied much of the football-mad nation since the squad arrived Friday. Even Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra attended the match, and Ferguson presented him with one of the team’s famous red jerseys, emblazoned with the number 52 — the age he turned last week. The premier joked before the match that the Thai national side would have a better chance of claiming victory if the visitors headed down to the notorious Patpong nightlife district on Saturday night. “There is one trick we could use to win over Manchester United … we don’t have to cheat, we will just let them go to Patpong,” he joked.