FOXBOROUGH, Massachussets (AP) – Federico Macheda scored two goals, and perhaps more importantly won the praise of manager Sir Alex Ferguson, as Manchester United beat the New England Revolution 4-1 on Wednesday in the opening game of their U.S. preseason tour.
The 19-year-old Italian forward had been earmarked as the next big thing for United since scoring some key goals late in the 2008-09 season but had not been able to find much playing time since; well behind the likes of Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov among the club's striking stocks.
He made the most of a rare opportunity to impress on Thursday, scoring the Red Devils' second and third goals as the English club took control after a scoreless first half.
''You saw Macheda finishing today - first class,'' Ferguson said. ''He is something special. Nineteen years-old - I still have high hopes for him.''
It was 0-0 after 45 minutes; a moral victory for the Revolution, which is in last place in Major League Soccer's Eastern Conference.
Michael Owen - another striker hoping for more playing time in the season ahead - opened the scoring for United in the 51st minute when he took a pass from Michael Carrick and aimed a low shot just under the goalkeeper's outstretched leg.
Just three minutes later, Carrick set up Macheda on a one-two that allowed the Italian to get between two New England defenders and score.
New England pulled a goal back just two minutes later, as a Benny Feilhaber free kick deflected off Kenny Mansally and into the net.
Macheda restored United's two-goal buffer in the 61st minute, knocking in a Rafael cross.
The result was put beyond doubt in the 81st when Gabriel Obertan used some fancy footwork to bedazzle a defender, and passed to Ryan Giggs who teed up Park Ji-sung to chip the ball over the goalkeeper.
Playing for the first time since losing 3-1 in the Champions League final to Barcelona on May 28, United started only four players from that lineup and substituted liberally, with Wayne Rooney replaced at halftime.
England winger Ashley Young made his first appearance in a United shirt after joining from Aston Villa last month for a reported $27 million.
New goalkeeper David De Gea - earmarked as the replacement for Edwin van der Sar as United's No. 1 - did not play. Instead it was young Dane Anders Lindegaard who took the gloves.
''It's always difficult in your first game,'' said Rooney, who put a header over the crossbar in the 18th minute. ''It's a different pitch to play on. For the first, overall, I was pleased.''
The attendance was announced at 51,523; the highest-attended club friendly in Gillette Stadium history.
''We were happy with the way things went in the first half,'' said Revolution coach and former Liverpool fullback Steve Nicol, who substituted most of his starters to rest them for Sunday's game against Philadelphia. ''At the end of the day, they're smarter between the ears.''