Michael Carrick fittingly scored the final goal in his testimonial match as a United 08′ XI twice came from behind to draw 2-2 with an All-Star team in front of a huge Old Trafford crowd.
Gaizka Mendieta put the visitors in the lead midway through the first half, before a typical Nemanja Vidic header levelled proceedings. Robbie Keane thought he had won it for the All-Stars when he made it 2-1 in the second half, but Carrick was to have the final say on his big day with a 25-yard screamer that rattled in off the post to ensure the spoils were rightly shared.
Sir Alex Ferguson was back in the dugout to manage a line-up formed largely from his Premier League and Champions League-winning squad of 2008, with many fans’ favourites returning to grace the famous Old Trafford again.
Edwin van der Sar, Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs were just a few of the Reds legends who were back in action. Carrick’s younger brother, Graeme, started on the substitutes bench alongside the likes of Gary Neville, Louis Saha and Dimitar Berbatov.
The opposition team, managed by Carrick’s former West Ham United boss Harry Redknapp, featured Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher and Chelsea stalwart John Terry alongside other international stars such as Clarence Seedorf, Marcos Senna, Robbie Keane and former Reds striker Michael Owen.
Before the game kicked off, Carrick addressed the crowd and the players, thanking everyone for their support throughout his distinguished career so far. A minute’s silence then followed as a mark of respect to the victims of the terror attacks in Manchester last month and London last night.
The Reds, being captained by Carrick himself, started on the front foot but the All-Stars, skippered by Terry, were looking dangerous on the counter attack through players like Damien Duff.
The United faithful rose to their feet 13 minutes in when a powerful run by Patrice Evra, who is still playing at the top level in France at the age of 36, took him into the box, but after tangling with Carragher and claiming in vain for an early penalty, goalkeeper Shay Given was able to clear.
Moments later a typical pin-point long ball from Scholes found Wayne Rooney in behind the All-Star defence, but his lobbed effort found the roof of the net.
Seedorf had the crowd purring after a cute nutmeg on Darren Fletcher, before minutes later the Milan and Netherlands legend played a part in creating the visitors’ opening goal. The 41-year-old rolled back the years with a 40-yard pass that found Eric Abidal who subsequently cut it back to Robbie Keane. The former Tottenham striker laid the ball off to Mendieta who slotted home with a low shot past van der Sar from 15 yards.
At the other end, Rooney had a chance to equalise, but he headed wide from an Evra cross, but the Reds did not have to wait too much longer to level proceedings. A classic corner from Giggs found Vidic who powered home a header in typical fashion.
Six minutes before the break, Carrick tried a cheeky lob from 25 yards, but luckily for opposition keeper Given, it crept inches above the crossbar, before Scholes sent an effort over the target from a similar distance after cries of ‘shoot’ from the buoyant Old Trafford crowd.
The All-Star XI could have taken the lead on the stroke of half-time after silky skills from Seedorf created an opportunity for substitute Eidur Gudjohnsen, who interestingly scored the first-ever goal for Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea team against United back in 2004. However, van der Sar was alert enough to save the Iceland international’s effort with his legs.
After the expected plethora of substitutions at half-time, the second period opened with Marcos Senna, one of the few players to stay on the field, trying his luck from 25 yards and van der Sar pulling out one of his famous flying saves to tip the ball wide. At the other end, United sub Gary Neville found himself in unfamiliar territory at the back post, but his speculative volleyed effort flew closer to the corner flag than to the goal, leading to some good-natured laughs around Old Trafford. His fellow replacements Berbatov and Saha went closer to putting the Reds in front with the latter hitting a rasping shot towards goal from Evra’s pass that produced the save of the match from the agile Given.
At the other end, the All-Star XI should have regained the lead earlier than they eventually did after Keane was played clean through and squared for the arriving Gudjohnsen, only for Mikael Silvestre to rescue United by nipping in before the striker could tap home.
That was to be just a brief respite for the Reds as only a minute later Carrick’s close friend from Australia, Richard Garcia, found Keane at the back post and the Irishman lobbed van der Sar in expert fashion.
Keane was close to doubling his tally with another cute lob, but this time it found the roof of the net, rather than the back of it, before Gudjohnsen cut inside Silvestre, but van der Sar managed to pinch the ball from his feet.
United should have levelled when Saha fired over the bar after being found by Rooney but when the Reds did square the scoreline in the 82nd minute, it was apt that Carrick himself should do it, with a trademark long-range effort finding the net via the inside of the post.
That was to be the last piece of action for the 35-year-old midfielder as Old Trafford rose to salute his talent and exemplary service to United, with Scholes coming back on to the field to replace him for the final few minutes.
United 08′ XI: Edwin van der Sar, Wes Brown (Graeme Carrick 62), Nemanja Vidic (Gary Neville 45), Rio Ferdinand (Mikael Silvestre 45), Patrice Evra, Ji-sung Park, Michael Carrick (c), Paul Scholes (Louis Saha 45) Darren Fletcher, Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney (Dimitar Berbatov 45).
Michael Carrick All-Star XI: Shay Given, Michel Salgado (Alex Bruce 45), Jamie Carragher, John Terry (c), Eric Abidal (Philip Neville 35), Damien Duff (Joan Capdevila 35), Gaizka Mendieta (Richard Garcia 45), Marcos Senna (Trevor Sinclair 74), Clarence Seedorf (Damien Duff 63), Robbie Keane, Michael Owen (Eidur Gudjohnsen 35).
Substitutions listed for both teams were the initial or main changes. Some players who were substituted later returned to the field.