Manchester United pummels MLS all-stars 5-2 |

Manchester United pummels MLS all-stars 5-2

AP Sports Writer

HOUSTON – Manchester United turned the Major League Soccer All-Star game into its own showcase of talent.

Federico Macheda had two early goals, Mexican star Javier Hernandez scored in his debut for the Red Devils, and Manchester United routed the MLS All-Stars 5-2 on Wednesday night in the final exhibition game of its North American tour.

Darron Gibson and Tom Cleverley added goals for the Red Devils, tuning up for the start of the Premier League season next month.

Houston Dynamo star Brian Ching had a goal and an assist for the All-Stars, who were hoping for a validating victory against one of the world’s pre-eminent soccer powers. But Macheda scored twice in the first 13 minutes, quickly dashing the MLS team’s hopes.

The Red Devils, who played without several top players, circled the field and applauded the fans after the game.

The sellout crowd was announced at 70,728, the largest for an MLS All-Star game since the first one in 1996 drew 78,416 to Giants Stadium. The attendance figure was the largest for a soccer game at Reliant Stadium.

MLS All-Star teams had won five of their last six matchups against international competition, including a 1-0 win over former Premier League champion Chelsea in 2006. They were confident this week, eager to show how much progress the league has made since its inception in 1996.

But the Red Devils, stinging after a 2-1 loss to Kansas City on Sunday, took a 1-0 lead before the smoke had cleared from the pregame fireworks display. Macheda intercepted a weak pass by defender Kevin Alston and chipped a low shot past goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts just 24 seconds into the game.

Macheda made it 2-0 in the 13th minute, beating Ricketts with a header.

The All-Stars got their best scoring chance of the half about 3 minutes later, when Juan Pablo Angel fired a direct kick that United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar punched over the crossbar. The Red Devils controlled possession from there and hardly allowed the All-Stars a decent scoring chance for the rest of the half.

American star Landon Donovan was among those who stayed on the MLS bench in the first half. Donovan and Los Angeles Galaxy teammate Edson Buddle played in a CONCACAF Champions League game Tuesday night California and flew to Houston on Wednesday.

Sir Alex Ferguson inserted Hernandez in the 63rd minute, prompting roars from the thousands of Mexican fans in attendance. The Red Devils acquired the 22-year-old Hernandez in April, the club’s first Mexican player.

Ching scored a minute later, heading in David Ferreira’s free kick from the left side. The four-time All-Star was a second-half substitution by MLS coach Bruce Arena.

Hernandez got behind the All-Stars’ defense in the 69th minute and was tackled by defender Wilman Conde, who earned a yellow card. Gibson converted the resulting free kick, curving a shot from just outside the penalty area into the upper left corner of the goal.

Cleverley scored about 3 minutes later, flipping the ball over Conde and beating backup goalkeeper Nick Rimando with a low left-footed shot.

Hernandez, a speedy striker, took a long pass from Paul Scholes and hooked a long shot over Rimando in the 84th minute for a 5-1 lead.

Donovan, the star of the U.S. World Cup team, trotted onto the field in the 74th minute, drawing a loud ovation. Donovan played the final 16 minutes without taking a shot.

Dwayne De Rosario scored in the 90th minute to round out the scoring.

Manchester United will play Chivas Guadalajara on Friday in Mexico before returning to England. The Red Devils open their Premier League schedule on Aug. 16, against Newcastle.