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Real Salt Lake right back Tony Beltran may have summed up the upcoming exhibition match against Manchester United the best:
"It'll be a fun celebration," he said.
Soccer-wise, Monday's 8 p.m. friendly at Rio Tinto Stadium is about preparation for both sides. The Red Devils are on a five-match preseason tour, and RSL plays a league match against a conference opponent, the Portland Timbers, Wednesday.
The stakes are low, but in an event geared toward celebrating soccer itself, that's hardly the point.
"Manchester United, that's a legendary club," RSL center back Justen Glad said. "You grow up watching them, and to be able to be on the same pitch as them, it's going to be unreal."
Real Salt Lake is planning to roll out three different groups Monday, coach Mike Petke said, giving each about 30 minutes on the pitch.
"Considering the timing of it," Beltran said, "I think we're going to try to use it as a training session. So there will be a lot of tactical emphasis on the way that we're going to try to play against Portland that we'll use against Man. U and try to implement there. So it'll be constructive from that standpoint, and hopefully we'll get through it unscathed."
RSL starters will kick off the match, and non-starters and Real Monarchs call-ups will play the remainder of it.
As of Sunday morning, the club had internally identified seven USL players who will join RSL for the exhibition match.
"I wish that we could have more of them up, but the group that we chose really earned it," Petke said. "I'm looking for them to get a great experience, and to enjoy it, and see the difference in level [of play], obviously."
Three Monarchs starters were ineligible for short-term agreements to play in the match because of the collective bargaining agreement rule that restricts players older than 25 from being signed to four-day contracts.
Leading scorers Chandler Hoffman and Sebastian Velasquez, as well as center back Taylor Paey, will not be able to join RSL against Manchester United. The same restriction kept them out of the U.S. Open Cup in June.
"I think the opportunity to play Man. U is a pretty big deal, so that one hurts the most to me," Hoffman said. "Especially because I don't see any reason why the players union would block an exhibition. I can understand from an Open Cup or an MLS game, but from an exhibition it just doesn't make any sense. So for me it's really hard to understand and comprehend why we're not getting that opportunity."
Manchester United opened its United States tour with a 5-2 win against the L.A. Galaxy at StubHub Center on Saturday. If that match sets a precedent, coach José Mourinho will likely also play multiple squads against RSL.
He used the first half Saturday to test out a new system with three in the back. In the second half, highly touted summer acquisition forward Romelu Lukaku made his Red Devils debut.
"He's a quality striker," Beltran said, "So if I find myself matched up against him, it'll be a fun encounter."
Let the celebration begin.
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Manchester United at Real Salt Lake
P Monday, 8 p.m.
TV • ESPN2