Manchester United: Starting XI: De Gea; M Keane, Jones, Evans; Valencia, Herrera, Fletcher, Young; Mata; Rooney, Welbeck.
Manchester United v Real Madrid.
International Champions Cup.
August 2nd 2014.
Michigan Stadium, Michigan.
Kick-off, 21.06 BST.
United face the might of Carlo Ancelloti’s Champions League winners tonight in the summer tour blockbuster final Group A match having successfully navigated past AS Roma and Inter Milan, the Reds are currently sitting on top of their group on 5 points. This evenings match will likely be United’s sternest test to date, with the defence in particular likely to suffer a thorough examination.
Madrid have at their attacking disposal more than 1/4 of a Billion Pounds worth of firepower in Ronaldo, Bale, Benzema, Di Maria and new summer addition, World Cup player of the tournament £63m James Rodriguez, a frightening arsenal of attacking talent. While we will not see Rodriguez or Benzema tonight as they both have just returned to Madrid following their holiday, the attacking options available to Ancelloti are still impressive.
How Louis van Gaal sets the team out to counter act the prowess of Madrid’s strikers we shall see shortly, but at first glance a back-line of 3 appears light to negate the Spanish giants forward threat, should the United boss continue working and developing the 3-5-2 set up. With 2 wins out of 3 matches on this summer tour it would be a significant morale boost for the clubs momentum to register any positive result tonight and therefore ensure United top Group A. Building a winning pattern, fitness and match sharpness in preparation for this forthcoming Premier League campaign.
There can’t be surely any bigger test to measure Manchester United’s readiness than facing Real Madrid this evening. Will there be a Cristiano Ronaldo sub-plot as CR7 will likely make an appearance at some point as he is back in training with Real. No doubt should Ronaldo appear the rapturous adulation of the 109,000 fans, the largest attendance ever at a football match in the USA in the Big House will be awesome. The appetite for soccer in the States is only skyrocketing, broadcasting all the 380 Premier League contests last season with total viewing figures reaching in excess of 116 million, a staggering growth increase of 114% on the previous term.
Should United pass the test tonight they have the added bonus to face one of our fiercest north-west rivals, likely Liverpool who are top of Group B with 5 points also. Brendan Rodger’s side face AC Milan at the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte later this evening in their final group match kick-off 23.30 BST. Should both British clubs top their respective groups, a tantalising International Champions League final between the two will take place in Miami at the 76,000 seated Sun Life Stadium on Monday the 4th of August. No Liverpool side will lay down for a Manchester United team, billed as a friendly or not, this will be what Van Gaal will be relishing to get the players battle ready, honed and focused for the season ahead with strong competition in the pre-season fixtures. But mention Liverpool and ignore Manchester City at your peril who also are also in with a strong chance of facing Manchester United in the final in Florida on Monday sitting second in Group B with 4 points and are equally capable as challenging the Red Devils.
Either way to face the Premier League winners or runners up, will afford Van Gaal another game against top-class opposition enabling the Dutchman to further evaluate the standard of his players ahead of next season.
Both Premier League rivals would provide another stringent examination of United and the new manager to determine if he has the resources, and enough quality players to mount a serious challenge to win the clubs 21st league title.
Tom Cleverley who appears to be offered a new lease of life under Van Gaal’s management shared his thoughts on the tour to date; “We really want to win this tournament and get the manager off to a good start. We want to build our confidence and that will happen if we can beat top quality opposition like Roma and Inter. Hopefully we do the same against Real Madrid. We all felt we could have played better against Roma but conditions weren’t easy. I think we’ve progressed again [against Inter] and are getting used to the system. We’re getting fitter and stronger and gaining more confidence and it’s good to have 5 points out of 6.”
Louis van Gaal briefly explained his thoughts on the tour so far to ManUtd.com, “We played against AS Roma, who were second in the Italian league, then against Milan who were fifth in the Italian league. Now we play Real Madrid and it is nice to play such teams, so you show you are least equal.”
Manchester United jousting with the Real Madrid giant in the past.
United have faced Real Madrid on 10 occasions in competitive competition, recording 2 wins, 4 draws, and suffering 4 losses.
1957: Real 3-1 United, United 2-2 Real (European Cup semi final)
1968: United 1-0 Real, Real 3-3 United (European Cup semi final)
2000: Real 0-0 United, United 2-3 Real (Champions League quarter final)
2003: Real 3-1 United, United 4-3 Real (Champions League quarter final)
2013: Real 1-1 United, United 1-2 Real Champions league last 16)
The last time United faced Real Madrid was in March 2013 at Old Trafford in our 2nd leg tie having returned from the Bernabeu Stadium with a credible 1-1. Danny Welbeck firing in a powerful header to put the Reds in front in the Spanish capital, Cristiano Ronaldo responding in similar fashion levelling the score 10 minutes later rising magnificently to meet an Angel di Maria cross, heading the ball past a helpless De Gea. Ronaldo keeping his celebration low key in deference to his 6 years at Old Trafford.
Having kept the tie alive with the draw in Spain, United had everything to fight for at Old Trafford, taking the lead in the 48th minute with a Sergio Ramos OG. However in the cruellest twists of fate Nani in trying to control the ball in mid-air inadvertently catching Alvaro Arbeloa, expecting a yellow card, the Turkish referee Cuneyt Caki saw the incident differently brandishing a straight red card to Nani, to the aghast of most.
To that point in time United had outplayed Real Madrid for long periods of the match, but the bitterness of the sending off provided the impetus for Los Blancos to drive forward.
The dynamic of the match had swung in favour of Jose Mourinho’s charges and they made capital of United’s loss of Nani, substitute Luka Modric powering in a 20 yard drive which rattled the inside of De Gea’s post and nestling in the net in the 66th minute. Los Blancos going for the jugular while in the ascendency striking 3 minutes later, Higuain sweeping a cross over to the post and poweringin to put the final nail in United’s Champions League season, Cristiano Ronaldo sliding the ball into the net. It was almost written in the script. In similar grace to his mooted celebration in the first leg Ronaldo kept his elation in check. United as we expect with a never say die attitude attempted a fight back with Rooney, Vidic and Carrick testing Lopez, but for all the teams courageous effort to turn the tie back in United’s favour the contest was effectively over with the dismissal of Luis Nani. Manchester United sadly exited the Champions League competition losing 2-3 on aggregate. Jose Mourinho graciously sharing “The best team lost…..I doubt 11 v 11 we win the match.”
The Series of Matches this evening;
Inter Milan v Roma, Kick Off, 18.00 BST, result 2-0.
Olympiacos v Manchester City, Kick Off, 20.00 BST.
Manchester United v Real Madrid, Kick Off, 21.06 BST.
AC Milan v Liverpool, Kick Off, 23.30, BST.
Who do you think Manchester United will face in the final of the International Champions Cup on Monday?