It’s only a pre-season tournament, and the trophy isn’t exactly steeped in soccer history. None of that mattered to Manchester United.
Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata scored two minutes apart in a second-half flurry, Jesse Lingard added an insurance goal in the final minutes and Manchester United rallied to beat bitter rivals Liverpool 3-1 before 51,104 fans in the International Champions Cup on Monday night.
After a Premier League season a year ago that was wildly disappointing – by United standards, anyway – the club remained unbeaten in five matches under new manager Louis van Gaal.
And while his players were clearly thrilled, Van Gaal offered a one-word assessment of what winning a pre-season tournament means.
“Nothing,” Van Gaal said.
Clearly, no disrespect was meant. But clubs like United are looking for the sport’s biggest prizes, and Van Gaal wants his team thinking big.
“It’s nice for the fans in the United States and also at home that we beat Liverpool,” the Dutchman said. “It’s not our favourite opponent, for Man United fans. I think we have gave a lot of pleasure to these fans and that’s very important.
"And of course, it is better to win in preparation time than to lose. But the most important game is against Swansea City, the first game at home in the Premier League.That, we have to win.”
Rooney said: “It’s obviously great to win the game and win the tournament. We worked hard in pre-season and to go unbeaten gives us confidence.”
"in the first half Liverpool were the better team. We were poor, we didn’t move the ball quick enough. We knew we had to put that right. The second half we came out and played very well and deserved the win," Rooney said.
The teams mingled on the field after the trophy presentation, though there is certainly no such thing as a true “friendly” between these clubs, who have combined for 38 English championships and well over 100 trophies worldwide.
And when Rooney cancelled out Steven Gerrard’s penalty, it was clear this was no meaningless match for him, either.
He volleyed home a cross from Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez in the 55th minute, timing his run perfectly to knock the ball into the far side of the net – then leaping and punching the air.
Moments later, Luke Shaw found Mata at the top of the penalty box, and Mata’s quick blast deflected past Simon Mingolet for a 2-1 lead. After Lingard added the insurance goal, Rooney stood still for a few moments, his arms outstretched in celebration.
Both teams substituted liberally in the second half.
“We’re disappointed to lose the game, of course,” Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said. “But it was a great trip for us. Every city that we’ve gone to, it’s been a fantastic show.”
It’s the second straight year the tournament concluded with a high-profile title match in South Florida, which has a strong and diverse soccer following.
That’s among the reasons why David Beckham, one of the sport’s biggest stars, has been trying to get a stadium built in downtown Miami for an expansion MLS franchise.
Real Madrid beat Chelsea in last year’s final.