AIK welcome Manchester United to the Friends Arena in Solna, Sweden on Tuesday evening. It is a pre-season game for the visitors but it has the potential to be a stern test against a side who have already commenced their domestic league campaign.
Andreas Alm’s team welcome David Moyes’s side to the 50,000 stadium in the new United managers final non-competitive game before the new season commences. All that waits after this game and the opening of their title defence away to Swansea on August 17th, is the traditional curtain raiser; the Community Shield, against Wigan.
Wayne Rooney will not travel to Sweden. United are insistent that the sole reason for the players withdrawal is a shoulder injury. Speculation remains however, his withdrawal coming on the same day the club rejected a second offer from Chelsea.
Moyes told the clubs website: “”Wayne hurt his shoulder in a fall during a match on Saturday. It’s not too serious and I don’t expect it to keep him out for too long. I’m disappointed he’s missing the game because we were keen to get him back involved and ready to play.”
Former United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel believes Moyes and his troops will have a stern test against AIK, who finished fourth in the Allsvenskan last season.
“AIK will be very fit, the Scandinavian season is ongoing at the moment and any team you play from this region will be match-fit,” he told Uniteds club website. “There will be a gap in terms of skill and I expect United to be fit as well but a little off the pace in terms of how we play in pre-season.
“It’s still one of the most important games David Moyes has had. The thing is the result doesn’t matter but we as players know this is not about losing anything. These are the games where you have to start winning. In terms of the Community Shield, it’s one of those where it doesn’t matter how much we do beforehand, we are always going to go into the season under pressure.”
After working on his fitness in recent weeks, Nemanja Vidic is set to return to captain the side. Long -term absentee Darren Fletcher is the only other major concern aside from the late news on Rooney. The timescale for the return of the Scotland international is, the player admits, in the hands of the surgeon who has operated on the 29-year-olds chronic bowel condition, to give him the go ahead to return to full training.
Fletcher does believe though he will return to perform at the highest level, saying “I fully believe that I’ll be back at the level I was playing at. I’ve not been given any reason to think that can’t be the case.”
Whether Ronney will still be there when he does, remains to be seen. In the meantime United face a big two weeks as a new era takes shape. It starts in Sweden against AIK.