As if the enthusiasm behind USA in the 2014 World Cup wasn’t proof enough, a record match between Real Madrid and Manchester United is further proof that soccer is growing in America. The preseason friendly, which was held at Michigan University Stadium in Ann Arbor, drew 109,318 fans – an attendance record for a soccer match in the US. The previous record was set by the 1984 Olympic gold medal game between Brazil and France at the Rose Bowl, when 101,799 fans showed up to Pasadena, CA.
As for the result, Manchester United finished off a perfect run through International Champions Cup pool play by beating Real Madrid 3-1. They’ll now play in the ICC final on Monday in Miami, while Real Madrid, last year’s ICC winner, is going home with a disappointing 0-2-1 record.
Manchester United definitely came out with plenty of fire for a preseason friendly. Midfielder Ashley Young quickly scored a goal thanks to an assist from Danny Welbeck. Real Madrid was able to tie things up on a penalty kick to make the score 1-1. However, this was as close as they’d get since Young added his second goal in the 36th minute. He tried sending a cross to Wayne Rooney in the middle, ultimately missing his target, but finding the inside of the right goal post instead.
Javier Hernandez added a third goal in the second half after an outstanding play. Shinji Kagawa sent him a deep pass, and Hernandez slid feet first, heading the ball into the goal while at an awkward angle.
Gareth Bale played a big part in Real Madrid’s attack. He had some good shots on goal and ultimately converted on the aforementioned penalty kick, which would be his side’s only score. Overall, Real Madrid looked pretty good in the second half after sending multiple shots at the goal early on. Man U goalkeeper David De Gea even had to make a diving save on Asier Illarramendi’s shot in the first minute of the second half. But like so many Real Madrid shots throughout the afternoon, Illarramendi’s attempt was kept out of the net by De Gea.
It was largely thought that Cristiano Ronaldo wouldn’t play at all in this match. After all, Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti ruled the star out due to a left knee injury that he suffered during the World Cup. But much to the fans’ surprise and delight, Ronaldo entered the match at the 72-minute mark. This substitution actually drew the loudest cheers of the game.
Moving forward, Manchester United figures to be a feared team when the English Premier League rolls around. They had a down season last year after finishing 19-12-7 (W-L-D) and missing out on Europa League qualification. However, they’re back with a new manager in Louis van Gaal and a fresh outlook. So don’t sleep on Manchester United with regard to English Premier League betting.
As for Real Madrid, they looked a bit shaky at times during ICC pool play. However, nobody’s counting them out since they won the 2014 UEFA Champions League Final after beating Atlético Madrid. Assuming this momentum continues and Ronaldo can get completely healthy, Real Madrid will definitely be a team to watch in La Liga betting.