Manchester United booked a spot in the International Champions Cup final thanks to a 3-1 win over Real Madrid in front of the biggest-ever crowd for a football match in the United States.
There were 109,318 fans packed inside Michigan Stadium, commonly known as The Big House, to witness a meeting between two of the world’s most famous clubs. Fans certainly weren’t disappointed after a pulsating clash ended in United’s favour thanks to Ashley Young’s first-half double and a goal after the break from substitute Chicharito.
Louis van Gaal fielded a strong team to face the European champions, who started with Gareth Bale, but left former Reds star Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench. Darren Fletcher skippered United once again and it was the Scot who had the game’s first sight of goal. Wayne Rooney’s corner on 14 minutes fell to Fletcher who took a touch before striking an effort past Iker Casillas’ left-hand post from just inside the box.
United’s bright start continued and it was Fletcher’s drive forward which led to the breakthrough on 21 minutes. After a one-two with Rooney on the edge of the box, the midfielder slipped a pass to Welbeck who found Young on the far left of the box and he steered a shot inside Casillas’ near post to complete a brilliant move for van Gaal’s men.
The lead lasted a matter of six minutes before Bale at his menacing best drew Real Madrid level. A ball over the top found the Welshman down the left and he powered on into the area before being felled by Michael Keane. Bale dusted himself down to send David De Gea the wrong way from the penalty spot.
Rooney sent a shot straight at Casillas soon after, before Bale went for a spectacular overhead kick from a left-wing cross, but De Gea was there to block it. There was little time to pause, however, with the Reds regaining the lead on 37 minutes. The impressive Young collected possession on the left and curled a cross towards Rooney. It was just too high for the striker but the ball crept in at the far post.
After the injured Danny Welbeck was replaced by Wilfried Zaha, Rooney teed up the excellent Juan Mata with a well-worked free-kick, dinking the ball over the wall to meet the Spaniard’s dummy run. But Mata couldn’t keep his right-foot shot on target.
Van Gaal brought on more fresh legs at the break with Luke Shaw, Tyler Blackett and Tom Cleverley replacing Young, Jonny Evans and Ander Herrera, but Real were quickest out of the blocks as Bale once again caused havoc down the left. He collected a long pass on the left wing before skipping past Keane and finding Isco unmarked in the box, but his deflected effort, off Phil Jones, was well claimed by De Gea. Bale did manage to beat De Gea on 55 minutes but the post denied his 30-yard free-kick.
Pepe then blasted wide after United failed to clear a corner before Bale crossed for substitute Raul De Tomas to head over from close range. At the other end United substitutes Shaw, Shinji Kagawa and Hernandez combined to set up the latter for an effort on goal, but his poked effort carried too little power to beat Casillas, who had to be alert to punch away Cleverley’s well-struck shot minutes later.
One of the biggest cheers of the day was reserved for Ronaldo’s introduction as a sub on 74 minutes, but it was United who ended the day celebrating after Chicharito sealed the Reds’ place in the ICC final with a fine header to meet Kagawa’s perfect cross. A meeting with arch rivals Liverpool awaits in Miami.