Manchester United stays perfect, tops Inter Milan on penalties

Manchester United's Darren Fletcher celebrates after scoring his side's winner vs. Inter on Tuesday.

Matthew Peters/Man Utd via Getty Images

Manchester United and Inter Milan played to a 0-0 stalemate in the 2014 International Champions Cup in Landover, Md. on Tuesday, when a tidy and entertaining game produced no goals. United ultimately and rightly won out in the penalty shootout.

This battle of rebuilding European juggernauts produced a run of play that was unusually tight and polished for this time of the preseason. Both sides appeared in a 3-5-2 formation, pressed well and took good care of the ball when they had it. United manager Louis van Gaal will have been particularly pleased that no cheap goals were surrendered, his main gripe with United’s 3-2 win over AS Roma on Saturday.

United easily had the better of the chances. In the 11th minute, Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic saved well off his goal line when Phil Jones dove to head a Juan Mata corner at the near post. Jonny Evans failed to scramble in the rebound.

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Inter did muster a pair of half-chances thereafter, as Jonathan sent a shot high and Andrea Ranocchia did the same with a header. But from there on out, it was all United as far as the chances were concerned, as the Red Devils’ tight pack of midfielders and three well-connected central defenders choked off the supply to Inter’s forwards.

Wayne Rooney turned and shot from just outside Inter’s box in the 18th minute but watched his shot lift over the goal. And 20 minutes later, United assembled their finest attack in some time. Rooney, Mata and Danny Welbeck pinged the ball around in triangles as they cut through Inter’s half in a blur of combinations. In the end, the 22-pass sequence didn’t come off though.

But from there on, United ramped up the pressure. Mata zipped a shot wide from outside the box. And then, after van Gaal sent in eight substitutes to start the second half, the assault continued apace. Nani cut in off the wing in the 61st minute, exchanged a give-and-go with Shinji Kagawa to open up some space, but put his shot wide.

Not much later, Ashley Young whipped in a low cross that Tom Cleverley was allowed to run onto unmarked, but he blasted his shot over. Nani got his own good look thereafter, but put the finish right on Handanovic, who refused to cede the way. Kagawa couldn’t slot in the rebound.

In the 82nd minute, Cleverley appeared to have earned a penalty when he went down on solid contact with Ranocchia in the Inter box. But the whistle didn’t ring out, and play went on, drawing the ire of van Gaal, who usually restricts himself to taking notes on the sideline.

As the game got chippy, Inter got a free kick in the 85th minute which Fredy Guarin blasted at David de Gea’s goal and was only just pushed over by the Spanish goalie. At the other end, Wilfried Zaha put a late shot into the near side netting. But in the end, all that pressure never did yield a winner and the game went to a shootout.

United took a perfect series of penalties and prevailed when Marco Andreolli smacked Inter’s fourth penalty off the crossbar. Darren Fletcher then iced the game for United.