Manchester United ended the tour of the States on a high by beating rivals Liverpool to win the International Champions Cup in sultry Miami.
Louis van Gaal’s men overturned an early Steven Gerrard penalty – the third spot-kick United have conceded on tour – to claim victory through second-half goals from Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard.
Brendan Rodgers’ side, at the end of their own tour of the States, provided easily the biggest test of United’s pre-season so far as the two rivals from England’s north-west tried to outdo each other 4,000 miles from home.
United were perhaps not quite as sharp as in the previous tour games, not quite as commanding in defence, but found a way to win and head back to Manchester with five wins from five under van Gaal – and a first trophy under the Dutchman.
The 51,000 fans inside the Sun Life Stadium were treated to fireworks before kick-off and, while the game itself didn’t quite provide any, there was a competitive edge and feistiness and not normally seen at this time of year.
Javier Hernandez, starting in place of the injured Danny Welbeck, spurned an excellent chance to give United an early lead when he couldn’t convert Ashley Young’s whipped-in cross from close range.
Antonio Valencia then ended his birthday on a sour note, trudging off the field with an apparent injury. Luke Shaw replaced him, with Young moving over to the right wing.
Liverpool fired a warning shot moments later when Jordan Henderson headed over after Hernandez had failed to clear Gerrard’s free-kick.
But the Merseysiders were given the opportunity to take the lead in the 14th minute as Phil Jones was adjudged to have tripped Raheem Sterling in the box, though the defender was aghast at the decision.
Up stepped Gerrard to send David De Gea the wrong way from the spot as United fell behind for the first time under van Gaal.
From then onwards, Liverpool were content to sit back and soak up United’s attacks. Mata had a left-foot shot blocked but that was about as close as the Reds came for the rest of the first half.
At the other end, De Gea made an excellent low save from a powerful Phillipe Coutinho drive, before Sterling, Liverpool’s most dangerous player, had a penalty appeal turned down, with replays suggested he may have been upended by Ander Herrera.
Van Gaal made two changes at the break, bringing on Tyler Blackett for Jonny Evans and Tom Cleverley for Darren Fletcher.
Rickie Lambert missed a good chance to extend Liverpool’s lead when he shot tamely at De Gea in the box after receiving the ball from Gerrard, who had intercepted a Herrera pass.
Soon after, Coutinho played a superb through-ball to Sterling, whose shot deflected inches wide with De Gea stranded.
Liverpool were on top but, in the space of two minutes, United turned the game on its head. First captain Rooney, who had been relatively quiet in the first half, equalised when he met Hernandez’s arrowing cross with a neat left-foot volley across Simon Mignolet.
And Mata put the Reds ahead two minutes later when his shot deflected off Mamadou Sakho to wrong-foot Mignolet.
Just after the hour mark, there was an unusual moment of controversy when Young swung a high ball over from the left, which apparently bounced off the crossbar into the path of Rooney, who had the simplest task to tap home.
Referee Mark Geiger awarded the goal but Liverpool protested that the ball had actually bounced off the goal stanchion, which replays proved, and the decision was overturned.
Van Gaal continued to ring the changes, bringing on Nani, Shinji Kagawa and Lingard for Hernandez, Mata and Herrera.
Chris Smalling made a last-ditch clearance to deny Martin Kelly, before Lingard made the game safe when he controlled Young’s cross and fired a low half-volley from the edge of the box beyond Mignolet.
You shall always walk alone!:P