For the first in over 25 years, the New York Cosmos will be playing against a professional team when they face Manchester United in Paul Scholes’ testimonial match Friday. Despite not currently being affiliated with any league, New York becomes the first American club to play in the Theatre of Dreams at Old Trafford.
With a playing roster that is headlined by soccer legends such as Fabio Cannavaro, Gary Neville and Brian McBride blended with some of the top players of the club’s youth academy players, the Cosmos aim to mark their return in the way they are remembered most – in style.
Team Vice Chairman Terry Byrne discussed with Goal.com how he was able to recruit some of the stars featured on the roster.
“Contacts -- I know most of them,” Byrne said to Goal.com. “Out of respect for Paul Scholes, a couple of them [agreed] to play. We’ve built the name of the Cosmos enough where everyone is aware of it, even back in the UK as well.”
Byrne explained that he initiated the friendly after previously turning down an offer from Gary Neville for the New York Cosmos to play in his testimonial match.
“I would have loved to have done that for him but at the time we weren’t ready,” Byrne said.
The former manager of David Beckham admitted that with the team’s Premier Development League season just beginning when Neville retired, it would have been unfair for it to ask its youth players to fly to Manchester to play against the Red Devils. When Paul Scholes announced his retirement, Byrne took the bull by its horns and expressed his interest in having the Cosmos play in the midfielder’s testimonial. After that, the arrangement for the game picked up momentum.
New York Cosmos Director of Soccer and Manchester United legend Eric Cantona met with his former boss, Sir Alex Ferguson, to finalize the details in spring. Byrne acknowledged that the Cosmos had to keep quiet about the match for over two months as the Red Devils didn’t want anything distracting from Neville’s match, which he says was at times difficult for the club. Still, once it was official, Byrne says that Cantona was jumping at the bit to face his former manager.
“What's funny is both of their natural personalities, both competitive, neither one of them want to lose the game,” said Byrne.
Despite the aggressive nature of both, Byrne wants to remind everyone that this match is celebration of Paul Scholes first and the return of the Cosmos second. This is an exhibiton match and he he is happy that the club has come this far.
Additionally, Byrne believes that the match can serve as a reward for some of the youth team players who have progressed as a result of working in the team’s academies.
“To give a kid like Marvin Iraheta, a fantastic 18-year-old holding midfielder, a chance to train and play with Patrick Viera, that’s my dream,” Byrne said, smiling.
Yet, Byrne doesn’t want his side to get the same shellacking that some of its Major League Soccer counterparts have gotten throughout the summer.
“What I say is the result doesn’t matter,” said Byrne. “In the grand scheme of things, this is a celebration for Paul Scholes and what he achieved. That being said, do I want to get battered? Of course I don’t.“
He added: “That’s why we fielded a competitive side. This is more of an occasion, this is the first time in 20 years that the Cosmos are playing.”
Chad Calderone *
Ibrahim Diaby *
Stefan Dimitrov *
David Diosa *
Marvin Iraheta *
Dane Murphy *
Yanik Reyering *
Moriken Sangary *
*Denotes New York Cosmos U-23 Player
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