Miami : Manchester United ended their US pre-season tour on a high note on Monday, rallying for a 3-1 triumph over English Premier League rivals Liverpool.
In the final of the International Champions Cup friendly tournament, 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’ Liverpool, at the end of their own pre-season tour of the United States, provided easily the biggest test of United’s pre-season so far as the old foes clashed before 51,104 fans at Sun Life Stadium, home of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins.
United were perhaps less sharp than in their previous matches on the tour, but improved in the second half and head home with five victories from five matches under new manager van Gaal.
Van Gaal, tapped more than two months ago to replace the sacked David Moyes at Manchester United, took the reins only after guiding the Netherlands to a third-place finish at the World Cup.
Although the gruff Dutchman was pleased with Monday’s victory, he was already focused firmly on August 16 and Swansea’s visit to Old Trafford in their Premier League opener.
“It’s nice for the fans in the USA and also at home that we beat Liverpool,” he said. “I think we gave a lot of pleasure to the fans and that’s very important.
“Of course, it’s better to win than to lose in pre-season, but the most important game is against Swansea City. That’s the one we have to win.”
Rooney captained Manchester United for the first time on the tour. And after Gerrard beat David De Gea from the penalty spot in the 14th minute– after Raheem Sterling drew a challenge from Phil Jones, it was Rooney who grabbed the equalizer in the 55th.
Javier Hernandez flew down the right and sent in a cross that Rooney fired past Simon Mignolet.
Two minutes later, Luke Shaw’s pass found Mata, who beat Mignolet with a low shot to put United up 2-1. Rooney was also involved in a brief controversy that flared in the 65th minute.
A long range shot from United’s Ashley Young bounced back into play off the goal frame and Rooney poked the ball home, only for officials to belatedly disallow the goal when they realized the ball had been out of play on the net behind the goal.
Lingard completed the scoring in the 88th, blasting Young’s pass past Mignolet.
“It’s obviously great to win the game and win the tournament,” Rooney said. “We’ve worked hard in the pre-season. Today in the first half Liverpool were the better team.
“We were poor, we didn’t move the ball quick enough. We knew we had to put that right. The second half we came out and played very well and deserved the win.”
While Liverpool were unable to put a final gloss to their campaign in the International Champions Cup, which featured eight top European clubs preparing for their domestic campaigns, Rodgers was pleased overall with his side’s North American tour.
“I thought it was an excellent run-out for us,” he said. “Obviously we’re disappointed to lose the game, but it’s been a great trip for us. We did have a spell where we gave away two quick goals, but up until that point I thought we were very good.
“Overall, it’s been an excellent tour for us in our quest to get fit.” —AFP