It was no shock United emerged victorious at the scenic national stadium, nor, given the heat and humidity of an afternoon kick-off, was the margin of the win. What did raise a few eyebrows were the names of the scorers. While Ruud van Nistelrooy, Louis Saha and, to a far lesser extent, Wayne Rooney were continuing the profligate ways that caused Ferguson so much frustration last season, it was left to Rossi and Dong Fangzhou to spare the tourists from embarrassment.
Rossi, a free-scoring Italian American who was incredibly prolific in United's all-conquering reserve team 12 months ago, succeeded where Saha failed when he took advantage of the Frenchman's air shot to tap home Ryan Giggs' low cross midway through the second period. Then Chinese youngster Dong, on what many expected to be nothing more than a token appearance on near-home soil, seized his chance in spectacular style by capping his first United outing with a superbly taken effort.
The short-term futures of the pair remain poles apart, mainly because Dong must remain with feeder club Royal Antwerp because he does not qualify for a UK work permit, but Ferguson is equally enthused about them both. "It is always pleasing when young players come out of the academy system and show great potential because Manchester United's history is about producing your own," said Ferguson.
"Giuseppe has been with us a year. He is very calm in the box and really takes his time, which not everyone can do. "Dong has improved greatly since the last time I saw him. He is a strong boy, very athletic and quick and took his goal well. "They both have the temperament to play on this stage and most importantly, the temperament to play with older players." While the battle to get Dong to United's Carrington training ground on a permanent basis goes on: "It would be the best thing for his continuity in coaching", observed Ferguson, Rossi could find himself catapulted into the first-team picture far quicker than he might have imagined.
Now eighteen, the diminutive American-born forward was lured to England from Parma's academy and has served an impressive apprenticeship so far. And he could be the man to profit from Saha's poor form and Ferguson's decision to switch Alan Smith into central midfield. With skipper Roy Keane missing the trip through injury and the United manager determined not to push any player through more than 45 minutes in the opening three games of pre-season, the measure might initially have been a temporary one. But such was the enthusiasm with which the Yorkshireman stuck to his task, it could quite easily become permanent.
"Alan was superb," said Ferguson. "There was a great spirit about the team, he kept encouraging and cajoling the rest of the team and overall put in a very good performance." Unfortunately, the same could not be said of van Nistelrooy or Saha, who between them missed four gilt-edged chances. With five goals in his previous two games, van Nistelrooy could probably be excused his two failures, even though the second, when he blazed an inspired pass from Wayne Rooney over the bar left him kicking the ground in anger.
After 18 injury-plagued months at Old Trafford, Saha's margin for error is nowhere near as great. Ferguson has claimed he would be 'stupid' to let the former Fulham hit-man leave. But two open-goal disasters in the second period will not have gone down well, and only emphasised the assurance displayed by the two men who did find the net, particularly Dong, who snapped onto a loose ball, outpaced the Hong Kong defence, then slotted a precise finish into the bottom corner. "We created a lot of chances in the first half, played some good football and should have scored," said Ferguson. "Rossi got the breakthrough we were looking for and then Dong took his chance very well. "He showed a great turn of speed and a lot of composure in his finishing. Overall, it was very promising."
Manchester United: Van der Sar (Howard, h-t); P Neville (Bardsley, h-t), Ferdinand (G Neville, h-t), Pique (Silvestre, h-t); Richardson (O'Shea, h-t), Jones (Smith, h-t), Fletcher (Kleberson, h-t), Park Ji-Sung (Dong Fangzhou, h-t), Scholes (Giggs, h-t), Van Nistelrooy (Saha, h-t), Rooney (Rossi, h-t).
Hong Kong: Fan Chun-Yip, Man Pei-Tak (Lee Chi-Ho, 67), Lee Wai-Lun (Li Hang-Wui, 74), Lau Chi-Keung (Chan Yiu-Lun, 59), Au Wai-Lun (Wong Chun-Yue, 59), Cheung Sai-Ho (Poon Man-Yik, 45), Chan Ho-Man, Lee Wai-Man, Poon Yiu-Cheuk, Chu Siu-Kei (Law Chun-Bong, 45).
Referee: C Byron.
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