United has gotten off to a roaring start this pre-season under new manager Louis van Gaal. United decimated the Los Angeles Galaxy 7-0 and then beat AS Roma 3-2 in their ICC opener on Saturday. But van Gaal, ever the perfectionist, wasn't entirely happy. The Red Devils had held a 3-0 lead until the 75th minute, courtesy in part to a wondrous Wayne Rooney strike, but gave up two goals late on. Miralem Pjanic heaved a miraculous ball over Ben Amos from inside his own half and Francesco Totti converted a penalty.
"I am pleased we have won, but it was not good," said van Gaal, who bemoaned the giveaways, also placed some blame on the heat and altitude at Denver.
Inter claimed an impressive scalp in their first game of the tournament, playing Real to a 1-1 tie and then prevailing in the shootout. A Gareth Bale blast had put the Spaniards ahead, before Mauro Icardi equalized with a penalty in the second half. When he and his peers converted three of their five penalties, to Real's two, they claimed two points - in this competition shootout wins yield two points, not three; shootout losers get a point.
Van Gaal has emphasized possession and initiative to his players, a departure from the ponderous and inadequate approach used by his (fired) predecessor David Moyes. Inter are a well-organized side, rebuilt after years of free fall. Inter's defense is always sound and they should give United and its attacking intentions a tough test.
In the other game, Real will look to get back on track following Saturday's shootout stumble. The defending European champions - and International Champions Cup title-holders - landed one of the biggest prizes in the summer transfer window in James Rodriguez, Colombia's breakout star at the World Cup. And in German Toni Kroos, they have further reinforced their midfield. But this new-look Real wasn't ticking quite yet against Inter so they have strides to make. Cristiano Ronaldo has joined the team's pre-season camp and should soon be available to play.
Roma, meanwhile, put together a mixed record against English opponents in their first two games. They beat Liverpool 1-0 at Fenway Park in Boston but lost to United, quite comprehensively.
The American-owned club has big ambitions, after spending most of its existence as an also-ran. They want to compete with Juventus for the Serie A title this year, after coming close but fading late last season. They want to build their own stadium. They'd like to be a player on the European stage. So what better opportunity, then, than to take on Europe's reigning kings on Tuesday?