Manchester United began their 2014 International Champions Cup tournament by holding on to defeat Roma 3-2 after having a comfortable 3-0 lead at halftime. Louis van Gaal described his team’s ability to close out the game as, “Not good,” but was pleased his side won their second competitive friendly under the new Dutch manager. Van Gaal continued with his favorite 3-4-1-2 formation that was deployed against the Los Angeles Galaxy in the Red Devil’s 7-1 victory earlier in the week.
Blackett, Jones and Evans began the game as the three center-backs for United and got their communication wrong early. Mattia Destro, Roma’s in-form center-forward, got behind the Manchester defense in the second minute, chipped the ball over goalkeeper Sam Johnstone beautifully, but had it bounce inches over the crossbar for a goal kick. Destro had a few opportunities in the first half, but none better than the attempt noted above. The Italian was judged offside on numerous occasions, showing how teams may look to counter the three-man defense, with quick runs, which start on the last man, to get behind the defense.
United found their legs in the International Champions Cup though after acclimating to the heat and altitude of Denver, Colorado. Wayne Rooney began the scoring in the 36th minute with a fabulous arcing shot from 25-yards out. Juan Mata passed him the ball and Rooney found himself with space and time to take a touch and then unleash a looping rocket of a shot into the left-hand upper-ninety of the goal.
Just three minutes later, after Roma cleared a Manchester United corner, Rooney tracked back to receive the ball just inside his own half. The English International then did his best Steven Gerrard impression by hitting a pinpoint 40-yard pass to a streaking Juan Mata, who took down the assist with his right foot, let the ball bounce, and then calmly chipped the ball over the Roma keeper with his left. It was a sublime finish and showed off the versatility of both Rooney and Mata.
Then, to complete the half, Rooney scored again. This time from the penalty spot, after Danny Welbeck was taken down inside the box. That goal made it four goals in two games for Wayne Rooney. Now all Manchester United had to do was hold on to a 3-0 lead against Roma to win their first game in the International Champions Cup.
The Manchester United manger said that his “good passers failed today.” He believed it could have had to do with the heat and altitude, but Mata, Herrera and Kagawa were unable to dictate the pace of play, and that really caught up with United, especially in the second half. The second half substitute and Bosnian International, Miralem Pjanic, got Roma’s first goal in the 75th minute. It was a gutsy shot from his own half that caught the United keeper Amos off his line. It was the kind of goal that almost no one ever thinks about, let alone tries.
Roma legend Francesco Totti then scored the second in the 88th minute after Michael Keane was judged to have handled the ball in the penalty area. It was too little too late for Roma, but it will surely give them confidence heading into their second game of the International Champions Cup against Real Madrid on July 29. Manchester United will play Inter Milan on the same date. Manchester United leads the group with three points, followed by Inter Milan with two from victory in penalty kicks, then Real Madrid with one, and Roma with zero.
Judging by the from displayed on the pitch in his first two games, Rooney seems to be delighted by Louis van Gaal’s presence in the locker room. Ryan Giggs, the most successful player ever to wear a Manchester United jersey, and the interim manager at the end of last season, has said he definitely sees qualities of Sir Alex Ferguson in van Gaal. The Dutch manager was of course pleased that his side was able to hold on and win 3-2 against Roma in the International Champions Cup, but he will definitely want to see more from Manchester United’s defense and midfield in the upcoming games.
Commentary by B. Taylor Rash