Manchester United was able to edge Inter Milan in a penalty shootout 5-3 to stay top of Group A in the 2014 International Champions Cup. United have five points from two games so far in the tournament, and with a win or draw against Real Madrid on Saturday, August 2 in Ann Arbor, Michigan they will advance to the finals in Miami to play the winner of Group B. United could also advance to the finals if they lose and the result of the other Group A game, Inter Milan versus Roma in Philadelphia, ends in a draw during regular time.
The United versus Inter game ended 0-0 in regular time and for the second game in a row Inter Milan headed to a penalty shootout. Manchester United made all five of their penalty kicks in the shootout with Ashley Young, Javier Herdandez, Tom Cleverley, Shinji Kagawa and Darren Fletcher being elected to take them. Inter Milan’s first three penalty kick takers, Fredy Guarin, Yann M’Vila and Saphir Taider, all put their shots in the net. Inter’s Marco Andreolli hit the crossbar on the Italian side’s fourth attempt to set up Manchester United’s Darren Fletcher to clinch the victory. He finished emphatically and sealed the win for United, who are almost assured to go through to the finals of the International Champions Cup.
Both teams were deployed in variations of a 3-5-2 formation. Inter played with a more compact five midfielders across the pitch, and one striker roving behind the other to link up play. In contrast United played with Juan Mata, or Kagawa in the second half, as a central attacking midfielder to link up play between the other four midfielders and the two strikers. Neither team played particularly well in attack. It was a low tempo and cagey affair with United having more of the ball in possession, but neither team managed to have many quality attempts at goal regardless.
The three center backs of both teams did a great job in defense as is evident by the 0-0 score line after 90 minutes. Nemanja Vidic had another incredible game for Inter Milan and left the match in the 72nd minute to a standing ovation. Vidic left United this summer after the Red Devils decided not to offer the Serbian international a new contract. Louis van Gaal may rue not insisting upon Vidic staying at the club, as the former Manchester United captain looked confident and fit after playing a full 90 minutes, scoring the first goal in the penalty shootout, and winning the Man of the Match award in Inter’s win against Real Madrid just three days prior.
Louis van Gaal was satisfied with his team’s performance and said it was “by far the best match,” in terms of ball possession and positioning that he had seen his new Manchester United squad play in preseason. Inter Coach Walter Mazzarri was also impressed with his team’s performance. He thought his team did “very well,” especially since Inter does not have their full squad yet. Mazzarri was also happy to see Vidic get a warm reception from the United fans, saying, “It was a pleasure to see, a player welcomed back.”
The game was played at FedEx Field just outside of Washington D.C. in front of an announced crowd of just over 61,000 fans. That is a good number, but it will likely be dwarfed this weekend in Michigan. Manchester United and Real Madrid are expected to make history for the largest attended soccer event in America when they play on August 2 in Ann Arbor’s Michigan Stadium. The venue’s official capacity is just shy of 110,00, but it has been reported to hold 115,000 at times.
Real Madrid and United are the two best represented teams in the International Champions Cup this year and after a number of pitch-invasion incidents in previous games, security will likely be a priority. On July 29, when Madrid played Roma, there were over 20 occurrences of fans running onto the field in a five-minute span just before the end of the game. Hopefully for the sake of the American fans’ perception abroad there are no more incidents, but after the past few games of the tournament it seems unlikely.
Inter Milan will want to beat their Italian rivals Roma on Saturday August 2, but neither team will want to lose and therefore knock themselves out of the tournament. Manchester United will face a tough Real Madrid team, who will not want to lose all three games of the tournament after winning the inaugural event last year. United’s win in penalties over Inter has edged them a step closer to the finals of the International Champions Cup, and with a win or draw Saturday they can play for their first piece of silverware under Louis van Gaal.
Commentary by B. Taylor Rash