A small town in Southern Michigan had the eyes of the soccer world watching it with the largest crowd in American history on hand to witness Real Madrid and Manchester United at Michigan Stadium. A grand total of 109 318 were in the stands to witness the event. The game was broadcast around the world in up to 40 countries, with an estimated economic impact of $15-20 million on Washtenaw county.
Both teams were fully aware of the magnitude of the event despite its friendly nature, and they each fielded strong lineups for the occasion, with the likes of Wayne Rooney, Gareth Bale, Juan Mata, and Isco, all getting the start. Portuguese superstar, Cristiano Ronaldo, did not get the start, but he would make his first appearance of the tournament, when he came on as a second half substitute.
As expected, the atmosphere inside the stadium was even louder and more energetic than the one created outside of it leading up to the match. Fans had descended onto Ann Arbor from around the world, and once the game kicked off, it was easy to forget that the match was only a part of a preseason tournament. Nonetheless, Manchester United, only needed a point to reach the final in Miami, and Louis Van Gaal wanted his team to be there.
The influence of the Dutch coach was apparent from the opening kickoff, as Manchester United played a much more possession dominated style, which most are not used to seeing from Premier League sides. Manchester United's captain on the day, Darren Fletcher, had the best opportunity to open up the scoring inside the first fifteen minutes as he rifled a shot just wide in the 14th minute.
The defending Champions League winners, struggled to create much in the first half, but looked to catch their opponents on the counter. However, Manchester United continued to press a high line, and it worked to perfection as Ashley Young would open the scoring in the 21st minute. He benefited from a lovely buildup play by Fletcher, and Danny Welbeck, and made no mistake when he placed his shot in the bottom corner of Iker Casilla's net.
The lead would not last long though as Gareth Bale converted from the spot in the 27th minute to send the Real Madrid fans into a frenzy. The man worth over $100 million nearly gave his side the lead as well in the 34th minute when he attempted a lovely bicycle kick, but David De Gea was up to the task and had no intentions on allowing the Welshmen to beat him again.
Seconds after Bale's attempt, Wayne Rooney would find the go ahead goal as he was just able to get his head on a lovely ball from Ashley Young. In fact, inside the stadium they had given Young his second goal of the match, but it was quickly changed upon further review. Regardless of the goalscorer, Van Gaal's side were up 2-1 in the 37th minute. The game would go into the break with the Red Devils up 2-1 on their Spanish rivals.
The second half would start off as electric as the first half ended, but with Real Madrid being the more positive of the two sides. Isco looked fantastic as he showed off his skills to the crowd, but his side still found themselves down 2-1.
Real Madrid did well to create opportunities for themselves, but second half substitutes, Luke Shaw and Tom Cleverley, seemed to always be in the right place at the right time. They did a phenomenal job to not allow Real Madrid too much space, and kept a high line throughout the second half.
Manchester United's 21-year-old, Jesse Lingard looked impressive throughout the second half as well, springing Javier Hernandez, on a couple of different occasions. There would not be as many goals scored in the second half as in the first, but we would hear the loudest cheers of the day when Ronaldo began warming up in the 57th minute. Fans started screaming and chanting his name every time the player was shown on the big screen and in the 74th minute he entered the match to a thunderous reception.
Despite Ronaldo entering the match, it would be Manchester United who would score the match's fourth goal, as Shinji Kagawa would provide the assist for Hernandez to bury home. The game would end with the Red Devils defeating Real Madrid 3-1 to book their spot in the International Champions Cup Final.
The game on the pitch was rather action packed, but it was those watching the match in the stands that really made it such a special occasion. Saturday afternoon in Ann Arbor was proof that soccer has made it in North America.