Liverpool and Manchester United will renew their bitter rivalry in the unusual setting of a friendly match in the United States. The two sides will lock horns in the final of the International Champions Cup in Miami having both experienced a contrast in fortunes since they last met.
The Merseysiders finished last season with a Champions League spot and came closest to winning the title since winning the old Division One in 1990. United went into last season as Premier League champions yet finished No. 7, their worst finish ever since the league was re-branded in the 1992-93 season and without any European soccer to look forward to next season. While Rodgers has played down Liverpool’s title chances by claiming a Champions League spot is his priority, failing to emulate last season’s 2nd place finish will disappoint him – particularly as United are going through a transitional phase.
Nevertheless, a chance of silverware presents itself on Monday there is no such thing as a friendly when these sides meet. Both will take the International Champions Cup more seriously than they would if they were facing different opponents. While many would argue a final against Manchester City would get Red Devils’ blood up in the same way, United and their cross-city rivals have only become serious enemies again in the last few years following City’s renaissance after years slogging it out in the lower divisions. Liverpool have always been United’s biggest rivals and victory for Louis van Gaal’s men will be made all the more sweet after Liverpool Brendan Rodgers’ side did the double over them last season.
The two head coaches will look to field as many of their squad in the final as possible, but for different reasons. With less than a fortnight until the Premier League starts again, Rodgers will be looking to find his best forward line as the club begins life in the post Luis Suárez era. His plans have been hampered by Daniel Sturridge’s return to home to nurse an injury he picked up in training ahead of the AC Milan game. That means there will be added pressure on new signing Rickie Lambert who has failed to score in any of his appearances so far. He was even substituted after he missed a penalty against the Italians. However, Rodgers has seen a number of goals coming from midfield, with Joe Allen and Suso both scoring in their last outing in the International Champions Cup.
Van Gaal, on the other hand, is learning about his players all the time. Only four games into his tenure as United boss, he has changed his defense, midfield and attack at some point in every game. While Rodgers is seeing who deserves a start, van Gaal is looking at who he wants to keep at Old Trafford. With Robin van Persie still away, Javier Hernández will be hoping his goal against Real Madrid will give him the nod over either Danny Welbeck or Wayne Rooney. However, van Gaal is likely to stick with the latter two with Juan Mata or Shinji Kagawa playing just off them as he looks to maintain a winning formula.
Victory in International Champions Cup final will give either Manchester United or Liverpool a major confidence boost going into the new Premier League season. Liverpool have a surge in confidence running through them after over-achieving last season while United will feel they have something to prove. Van Gaal has the team purring again and with both sets of player trying to impress their respective managers against the old enemy, it should be a “friendly” remember.
Commentary By Robert Shepherd