The biggest crowd ever for a soccer match in the United States is set to witness two of the world’s biggest and most successful clubs go head to head in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on Saturday. Manchester United and Real Madrid will be watched by 109,000 at the Michigan Stadium as they continue their preparations for the new season in the International Champions Cup.
A victory over Roma followed by a draw with Inter Milan and subsequent penalty shootout win means that Manchester United will make it through to the final of the competition in Miami with a victory over Madrid, who have been eliminated following a loss to Roma. That position is a sign of an encouraging start to Louis van Gaal’s tenure in charge of the three-time European champions. The man who guided the Netherlands to third place in this summer’s World Cup has been charged with returning Manchester United to their former glories after they slumped to a seventh-place finish in the Premier League last season following the retirement of legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
“We played against AS Roma, who were second in the Italian league, then against Inter Milan, who were third in the Italian league [they finished fifth],” he told Manchester United’s official website. “Now we play Real Madrid and it is nice to play against such teams, so you can show you are at least equal.”
Van Gaal’s impact has been felt in more ways than simply some encouraging early results. The former Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach has implemented a new 3-4-1-2 formation, and admitted that it could take time for the players to fully adapt to his approach.
“Every club where I have been, I have struggled for the first three months,” he said after Darren Fletcher scored the winning penalty against Inter following a 1-1 draw in Washington, D.C. “After that, they know what I want, how I am as a human being and also as a manager because I am very direct. I say things as they are, so you have to adapt to that way of coaching. It's not so easy. The way I train and coach is in the brains and not the legs.”
The clash with Inter saw Manchester United reunited with a club legend in recently departed captain Nemanja Vidic. Another will be in attendance when United meet Real Madrid, but Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo looks unlikely to feature on the pitch. The Portuguese star, who left Old Trafford for the Spanish capital in a then-record transfer five years ago, is still recovering from an injury that hampered his end to the club season as well as at this summer’s World Cup. Spanish publication Marca has reported that Ronaldo has stepped up his training as he looks to return to full fitness for the European Super Cup in just under two weeks’ time, but is unlikely to feature in Michigan.
Ronaldo was a key figure the last time the sides met, when scoring en route to Madrid knocking Manchester United out of the Champions League 18 months ago. Since then Real Madrid have claimed a long-sought 10th European crown to further cement their status as the continent’s most successful club. Not content with that achievement, Madrid have spent big to strengthen their already star-filled lineup by adding Colombia’s World Cup sensation James Rodríguez and German World Cup winner Toni Kroos. Their exertions in Brazil mean that, like Ronaldo, neither will feature on Saturday when Madrid will seek to end their tour of the U.S. with a first victory.
Where to watch: The International Champions Cup match between Manchester United and Real Madrid will kick off at 4.06 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by Fox and ESPN Deportes, with a live stream available on Fox Soccer 2Go and Watch ESPN.