Manchester United, Liverpool re-ignite rivalry in International Champions Cup final
Manchester United and Liverpool will face off for the 2014 International Champions Cup on Monday (live, FOX Sports 1, 7:30 p.m. ET) in Miami in a clash of archrivals. Bitter enemies, these two titans of English soccer each have a point to prove – and would dearly love to make it at the other’s expense.
United had a wretched season last year, as David Moyes proved incapable of succeeding the great Sir Alex Ferguson as manager. The Red Devils slipped into a spiral that left them in seventh place, out of the European spots. In stepped former Holland manager Louis van Gaal, bringing a larger-than-life persona and a famously despotic type of genius.
Right away, United showed marked improvement, pinging the ball around with a guile not seen for some time. They hammered the LA Galaxy 7-0 in a friendly and, once the tournament started, ran out to a 3-0 lead over AS Roma before settling for a 3-2 win. They beat Inter Milan on penalties and then beat Real fairly comprehensively, dominating large stretches of the game against the defending European champions, all that without injured star striker Robin van Persie. New arrivals Ander Herrera, a playmaker, and left back Luke Shaw look like real upgrades, and the existing core of the squad seems rejuvenated by the new management.
Liverpool likewise have some challenges looming before them. In Brendan Rodgers’ second season in charge, he brought the proud but then-decaying club back to contention. To the surprise of one and all – and perhaps even Liverpool themselves – they were in the title race until the final day and could have won it, were it not for a few late slip-ups.
The Reds lost star striker, top scorer, and controversy magnet Luis Suarez to Barcelona over the summer. They reinvested the enormous $127 million sum they received for him in a quintet of useful players (plus a prospect will join in a year’s time) to reinforce a thin squad. They are expected to make more moves yet. But without the man who equaled the Premier League single-season scoring record of 31 goals last year – in spite of missing time due to yet another suspension for biting – and assisted on many more, they could struggle to put the requisite goals on the board.
Yet as this tournament has gone on, Liverpool have figured a few things out. They won their opening game against Olympiakos on an early Raheem Sterling goal and then rode out the remainder of the game. In their second contest, against Manchester City, they twice came back from a deficit, creating scoring chances in bundles before settling for a 2-2 tie and winning on penalties. Against Milan, they gave a more polished performance still and got two more goals.
While the Reds have seen quite a lot of player turnover this summer, Rodgers pointed out that he bought players who should fit seamlessly into his system, therefore facilitating their integration and minimizing adjustment periods. It is his hope, then, that he can cope with Suarez’s departure simply by better allocating his slots all over the field with his newfound depth.
Both sides look like they’ll be better this year. As they compete for victory in the second edition of the International Champions Cup, we’ll also get an approximation of how these old rivals will compete for this year’s English Premier League title.