Manchester United cruised to a 3-1 victory over Liverpool in Miami last night to claim the International Champions Cup.
Steven Gerrard gave Liverpool the lead after Phil Jones brought down Raheem Sterling with a clumsy challenge as Liverpool led a first half without many clear cut chances. The second half however it was a completely new Manchester United as their power, pace and passing game came to the fore. Goals from captain Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and substitute Jesse Lingard sealed the win for Louis van Gaal’s men as they came from behind for the first time on tour.
After a disappointing first half however, it’s clear there are still lessons to be learnt for the players and fans.
1. Patience is a virtue
After a sloppy start, Liverpool took the lead and United looked all over the place. Fletcher and the 3 central defenders’ passing was all over the place and despite our best attempts we couldn’t break through a spirited Liverpool high line. Their pressing game forced us to go back to De Gea on several occasions and he was then forced to lump it up field. Patience is a virtue though and in the second half United were much more composed on the ball. This composure led to chances and chances led to goals as Rooney and Juan Mata turned it up a notch.
2. Luke Shaw is an athlete
Luke Shaw came on in the 8th minute last night for the injured Antonio Valencia, with the Ecuadorian having barely touched the ball. Shaw made the switch to left wing-back with Young moving to right-wing back and we instantly looked much more dynamic. Shaw’s bursts of speed often took him past the Liverpool right back Kelly, and with Liverpool playing a narrow midfield he had acres of space a lot of the time. Despite being criticized for not being fit enough to play the role, he was fantastic last night. If he’s not fully fit yet, he is going to be an absolute monster once he is.
3. Tyler Blackett will be a star
Blackett was a half-time substitute for the much maligned Jonny Evans at half-time. United instantly looked more stable at the back with the 20 year old on the pitch. His composure on the ball was something the side lacked in the first half, while his power and pace were enough to keep up with Raheem Sterling on occasions, meaning he didn’t pose as much of a threat as in the first half.
Blackett seems to have taken to the three center back system well and looked very comfortable last night. Van Gaal has said “he’s ready for this level” so there’s a big chance we could see him in the first team more regularly next season.
4. Wayne Rooney is a striker and Mata is a #10
The last few seasons we’ve seen Wayne Rooney play just off the main striker for club and country, while we saw Mata shunted out wide for most of last season to accomodate Rooney in the #10 role. If we didn’t know already, last night proved that Rooney is a striker and Mata is a #10. Rooney notched his fifth goal of the tour, while Mata dictated the game and pulled the strings for a central area. Both look lethal in this new system and it could be the start of something magical.
5. Manchester United will be a threat again
Last season United were a shadow of their former selves. A lack of attacking threat and no real creativity, the side was morbid to watch. However, under Van Gaal the players seem happy to try new things and actually look like they’re going to score goals. With Rooney, Mata and van Persie all in their natural positions, while Herrera has settled into a troubled central midfield berth almost instantly it seems certain that United will once again be a threat to everyone next season. With less games than everyone too, is thinking about the title really a step too far?