Thursday, Oct 30, 2014
Local Sports

Record crowd watches Manchester United


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— Manchester United thrilled a record crowd with a brilliant opening goal — and even Cristiano Ronaldo’s unexpected entrance proved futile for Real Madrid.

Ashley Young scored twice in the first half, and United beat Madrid 3-1 on Saturday in front of 109,318 fans at Michigan Stadium. It was the largest crowd to see a soccer game in the United States, breaking the mark of 101,799 set at the Rose Bowl for the 1984 Olympic final.

Ronaldo has been recovering from the left leg injury that limited him in the World Cup, but the world player of the year came on surprisingly as a 74th-minute substitute, although he didn’t have much impact.

“His condition is improving,” manager Carlo Ancelotti said. “I think that he needs another week to train with the teammates, and then I think he will be ready for the first game of the season.”

United remained unbeaten this year in the International Champions Cup, advancing to the final of the preseason tournament under new manager Louis van Gaal. Javier Hernandez added a goal in the second half for the English power.

Gareth Bale scored for Real Madrid, but the European champions finished winless in three matches in the event.

Although United will play Liverpool in Monday night’s final in Miami, this was probably the tournament’s marquee match, with two of the game’s most storied clubs playing at one of the largest and most iconic venues in the U.S.

“That was incredible,” United’s Michael Keane said. “Obviously, it is the biggest crowd I’ve ever played in front of, and it is for a friendly in the States. I’ve always heard they don’t care for our football, but there were 109,000 people out there. That’s pretty crazy anywhere in the world.”

Young’s first goal was the highlight. Wayne Rooney flicked a clever back-heel to Darren Fletcher, who found Danny Welbeck in the middle, near the edge of the penalty area. Welbeck played Young in on the left, and his low shot beat goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

“It was a fantastic goal,” van Gaal said. “All the team has touched the ball, I think. Only for that goal, you come to the stadium.”

Bale equalized in the 27th minute, converting a penalty kick after being pulled down by Keane.

Young put United back ahead in the 37th minute, playing a long cross in from the left. Casillas had to maintain his position near the middle of the net because Rooney was a threat to head the ball — but instead it sailed past the star striker and bounced in at the far post.

Hernandez made it 3-1 in the 80th minute, heading past Casillas from close range off a fine cross from Shinji Kagawa.

United is hoping to bounce back from a seventh-place finish in England last season — the team did not even qualify for the second-tier Europa League. Van Gaal is taking over after leading the Netherlands to the semifinals of the World Cup.

“It’s a new system, and we’re getting used to it, but we’re happy with what we’ve done so far,” Young said. “Obviously, it is a great feeling to score two goals, but those were both set up by my teammates. The first one was a beautiful team move.”

Madrid, meanwhile, won a record 10th European title earlier this year, but Ronaldo and his teammates should be plenty motivated after crosstown rival Atletico Madrid won the league title in Spain.

Although Ronaldo played a bit Saturday, several of Ancelotti’s other stars didn’t, including Karim Benzema and newly acquired James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos.

“We can’t be ready, obviously, the way we are. We have players that just joined up a week ago,” Ancelotti said through a translator. “Obviously, the team isn’t necessarily accustomed to playing without Cristiano or some other players, but it’s normal that we’re going through this.”

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