Manchester United have redeemed themselves during their US tour under the new manager Louis Van Gaal. During the tour, they did not lose a single match and after a thumping 7-0 win over Los Angeles Galaxy in California, they participated in International Champions Cup 2014. Man-U played three round-robin matches in their pool to finish on top and met arch-rivals Liverpool in the final on August 4, 2014. Despite being a goal down, Man-U came back strongly and won the final 3-1. While they claimed victory, Van Gaal had a glorious beginning to his new coaching assignment at Old Trafford.
In a related post on July 24, this author had written about the first jobs that Louis Van Gaal was required to do as Manchester United’s new coach. At that time Van Gaal was already in USA with a new-look Man-U team that was about to play a pre-season friendly match with Los Angeles Galaxy. To his credit, Van Gaal got off to a terrific start on July 24, when Man-U beat LA Galaxy by 7-0 at Pasadena Rose Bowl in California, where a capacity crowd of over 86,000 watched Wayne Rooney score twice. Lest it be forgotten, the Rose Bowl hosted the final of 1994 World Cup. Rooney was not alone in scoring two goals since debutant Reece James and Ashley Young also scored two goals each, after striker Danny Welbeck had opened the scoring. Gaal selected another debutant, Ander Herrera, for the game against LA Galaxy and Herrera proved his worth by dictating play in the midfield. He produced a range of smart short and long passes, which set the forwards going towards the Galaxy goal.
After the friendly against LA Galaxy, Van Gaal took the boys to play the second edition of Guinness International Champions Cup. In their first match with AS Roma on July 26 at Denver, Man-U came through 3-2 in an entertaining finish. It was a perfect start for Van Gaal, who had done away with the defensive tactics, which David Moyes was adapting even with weaker oppositions. Rooney scored another brace and Juan Mata scored another goal to make it 3-0 for Man-U at half-time. Roma reduced the lead to 3-2 from goals by substitute Miralem Pjanic and a late penalty by Francesco Totti but Man-U held out without any more damage.
In their next match Man-U faced Inter Milan, who held them to a 0-0 draw on July 29 in Washington DC. The match had to be decided on penalties and Man-U triumphed with the final score of 5-3 after Inter’s Marco Andreolli missed the eighth spot-kick.
In the last league game, Man-U beat defending champions Real Madrid 3-1. Until the 73rd minute, Real played without Cristiano Ronaldo, who couldn’t do much when he finally came on. This match was played on August 2 at the Michigan Stadium in front of more than 109,000 fans, a record attendance for football in US. Man-U opened the scoring from an impressive move by their forwards with Ashley Young bringing up the finish. Six minutes later, Gareth Bale equalized from penalty after he was brought down near the goal. But Young scored again in 37th minute and Javier Hernandez made it 3-1 in the 80th minute. Liverpool had emerged victorious in the other pool and the final was played at Florida’s Sun Life Stadium on Monday.
The championship match was played in rains and despite the uncovered Sun Life stadium, 54,000 rain-drenched fans still enjoyed the game between EPL’s most famous rivals. Liverpool went ahead early, when Steven Gerrard converted a penalty. Spirited play by Man-U, however, meant that the lead would not last long. Wayne Rooney equalized and two minutes later, Juan Mata put Man-U in the lead. Just before the final whistle, Jesse Lingard made the score 3-1 and Man-U emerged as the 2014 champions.
While Manchester United had great time before beginning of the English football season, Van Gaal justified his appointment as the new coach. His team played in a tournament that invited eight of Europe’s best football clubs. With 5 wins to boast, he will arrive in Old Trafford a proud man. At times, Man-U rode their luck but overall, the US tour has given Van Gaal an enhanced familiarity with the players and since there are a couple of new recruits, he can begin grooming them straightaway. The most important for Van Gaal was the fact that the players reacted well to his training methods and the 3-4-1-2 formation.