- The Washington Times - Monday, July 28, 2014

Few teams in the Premier League can boast as rich a history as Manchester United. The English club holds a record 20 league titles as well as a record 11 FA Cups — an honor they share with Arsenal. But even the most outstanding teams have times of struggle, and the 2013 campaign was such a time for the Red Devils.

“We’re one of the biggest clubs in the world,” said winger Ashley Young, who also plays for the England national team. “We had a lot of disappointment last year. This year, we’re looking to get back to success, we want to get back to winning ways, and we’re all looking forward to the challenge.”

Manchester United plays Italian club Inter Milan at FedEx Field on Tuesday.

From 1986 to 2013, Manchester United was a dominant force in world soccer under the watchful eye of manager Alex Ferguson. Under his direction, United claimed the league title 13 times, the FA Cup five times and the Champions League twice. Following Ferguson’s retirement at the end of the 2013 season, former Everton boss David Moyes was named manager, only to be relieved of command in April after United’s worst season in more than a decade. Former Netherlands manager Louis Van Gaal, fresh off a third-place finish at the World Cup last month, now patrols the touchline.

“I think it’s given everyone a big lift,” said defender Jonny Evans of Van Gaal’s appointment. “Watching the way the Netherlands performed has given everyone a lot of hope. They were good defensively and very well organized.”

Whatever his tenure brings, Van Gaal has already staked out his place in club history as the first manager from outside the United Kingdom or Ireland since the team’s inception in 1878. United hopes that his tough defensive brand of soccer will bring the team back to its winning ways. By his side during the upcoming season will be Ryan Giggs, who recently retired as the most decorated player in English soccer.

In July 2013, Giggs was named player-coach by Moyes and became the interim manager when Moyes was given the boot. He was immediately named assistant manager when Van Gaal took over, keeping the resident hero with the club.

“You see Giggsy out on the training pitch, he’s a legend of the club,” said Young who has played with Giggs as well as has been managed by him. “We’re all very enthusiastic about having him on the staff. Whenever he speaks you listen and learn from him, there’s always something you can learn from him.

“If I could emulate his career and earn the honors that he did, it would be fantastic. He’s really starting to transition as a coach, he’s been fantastic.”

As United gears up for the coming season, they — like many other European clubs — kick off their 2014 season with a tour in the U.S and several players have been on the tour before.

The Red Devils have beaten the MLS’ L.A. Galaxy in Pasadena, California and Italy’s Roma in Denver last week.

“I’m excited, I think the majority of players would say the U.S. tour is their favorite,” said Evans, who participated in the tour in 2011 playing Barcelona at FedEx Field. “The facilities are amazing and it helps everyone get ready for the season.”

“I’m looking forward to the tour and to playing at FedEx again,” said Young. “My first tour for the club, I got the chance to play in front of 85,000 fans against Barcelona. I’m delighted to play at one of the biggest stadiums in the country. But this is all about preseason and getting fitness levels back.”

While a tour in the U.S. can be a nice way to ease into the demanding Premier League season, the players and coaches at United are focused solely on proving that they are once again a top-flight team who can challenge for a trophy.

“Going into this season we’re thinking we’ve got a chance to win a lot of top games,” said Evans. “And that’s the way it should be at Manchester United.”

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