United win Solskjaer's testimonial
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's testimonial saw Manchester United beat Espanyol 1-0 on Saturday, though the 68,868 crowd saw little in the way of goalmouth action. Reserve forward Fraizer Campbell got the goal for the European champions against the mid-table Spanish side at Old Trafford.
The game did, however, serve to illustrate the increasingly pressing need for manager Sir Alex Ferguson to advance with his efforts to add a big-money forward to his squad this close season.
With the proposed acquisition of Tottenham's Dimitar Berbatov seemingly at an impasse, and the start of the Premiership season now less than two weeks away, the position remains the one glaring weakness in terms of United's strength in depth.
Against Espanyol, with Wayne Rooney suffering from a virus and French international forward Louis Saha absent, presumably injured, Carlos Tevez played as a lone striker and United lacked any real clinical touch in front of goal.
Tevez's performance was decent enough but marred by his reaction to a foul from Daniel Jarque late in the first half. The Argentinian forward leaped up and pushed his assailant in the throat before thinking better of pressing home his retaliation.
The striker issue becomes all the more pressing as Cristiano Ronaldo, who returns to the club on Tuesday after a summer of high controversy over a possible move to Real Madrid, is injured following ankle surgery and expected to be out until the end of September.
Ronaldo scored 42 goals in all competitions for United last season, exactly the same tally as Rooney, Tevez and Saha combined, and his loss could be a key factor in the early part of the new Premiership campaign, should United fail to sign a productive new forward.
The man of the moment
When Solskjaer, who officially retired one year ago, came on for the final 22 minutes of his testimonial, the situation concerning United's problems were underlined even more glaringly, given that the Norwegian looked the best forward on the field.
In the 77th minute, after a selfless assist by his old team mate Ryan Giggs, Solskjaer's strong shot flew just wide of the left-hand post and, seconds later, Espanyol goalkeeper Alvarez Cristian required two attempts to keep out another shot from the man of the moment.
Finally, nine minutes from time, a pass from Giggs gave the quick Campbell the edge to get ahead of his markers and slot a clinical finish past Cristian.
After Campbell's impressive Championship campaign on loan at Hull last season, United may be well advised to keep him around rather than sell him to Hull as appears likely this week.
United should have taken the lead far earlier in proceedings. In the 19th minute a chip from Paul Scholes struck the post and Nani ran in to place the rebound into the side-netting. Moments later, Darren Fletcher skied the ball over from a threatening position with Tevez doing the same thing shortly after.
The best move of the game saw Tevez free Nani down the right and his cross found Scholes whose effort was scrambled off the line by Francisco Rufete just after the half-hour.