Louis van Gaal’s winning run as Manchester Untied manager came to an end, at least inside 90 minutes, but his side still came out on top 5-3 over Inter Milan on penalties at FedEx Field in Washington, D.C.
After a goalless draw, seven near-perfect penalties were converted, before Internazionale defender Marco Andreolli blasted against the crossbar and the man again captaining United, Darren Fletcher, struck home the winning spot kick. It was just rewards after the Premier League side had the better of the contest in regulation time against a side featuring former United captain Nemanja Vidic. Following a 3-2 win over Roma at the weekend, Manchester United now have five points from their first two matches of the International Champions Cup. While they failed to add to the nine goals scored in Van Gaal’s first two matches in charge, there were again reasons for encouragement ahead of the start of the Premier League season against Swansea City in less than three weeks’ time.
As the Dutch coach confirmed beforehand, United again started in a 3-4-1-2 formation, with Juan Mata supporting Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck up front. Ably supported by the crisp passing of Ander Herrera in midfield, the trio linked up impressively on more than one occasion to test Inter’s rearguard. The best move of the match came with a quick, one-touch interchange of the sort that was so lacking from the team’s play under David Moyes. Fletcher, Welbeck, Rooney and then Mata were all involved, but the Spaniard’s cross failed to find his man in the middle.
Earlier in the half, Mata had picked out Phil Jones from a corner and it took a fine save from Samir Handanovic to claw the ball away from the Inter net. While they were unable to find a breakthrough, Van Gaal will have been impressed by his team’s control of the ball as well as the pressing off the ball in midfield that meant an Inter side missing the attacking talent of Argentinean duo and midfield creativity of Mateo Kovacic failed to test first-half goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard, or his replacement David de Gea.
Halftime saw eight changes made by United in total, including the arrival of Luke Shaw. The £27.5 million summer signing from Southampton had been called out by Van Gaal in the lead up to the game for his lack of fitness and even had an individual training regime devised to get him up to speed.
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Another United substitute who was publicly discussed by Van Gaal was also introduced at the break. Wilfried Zaha played his first minutes of preseason up front, having been told by his coach that he lacked the required defensive skills to operate in a wing-back role. The future of the 21-year-old could well lie away from Old Trafford, at least in the short term, but he showed some positive touches after coming on. Lining up alongside Zaha in an unconventional front two, it was Nani who came closest to giving the more than 61,000 in attendance a goal before full time, but the Portuguese winger first fired off target following a neat layoff from Shinji Kagawa, before having his shot saved by Juan Pablo Carrizo.
Inter’s substitute goalkeeper could get nothing to Manchester United’s five spot kicks, however. Ashley Young, Javier Hernandez, Tom Cleverley, Kagawa and then Fletcher all converted as Inter failed to repeat their shootout win over Real Madrid at the weekend while United will now have the chance to secure a place in the final of the competition when they meet the Spanish giants on Saturday.