Photography: Elizabeth Wenner
Written by: Michael Kroodsma, Ryan Makuch
We at MSN were lucky enough to cover yesterday's ICC match between two Premier League and world football giants, Manchester United and Liverpool. United supporters went home disappointed, as Liverpool's supporters flooded the streets singing 'You'll Never Walk Alone' all the way home. Here's our take, from a staff Liverpool supporter, Ryan Makuch, and staff Manchester United supporter, Michael Kroodsma, on what went down at the Big House Saturday evening.
English Soccer Returns to Ann Arbor as Liverpool Defeats Manchester United 4-1
Written By Ryan Makuch
The International Champions Cup returned to Ann Arbor for the third time in the past six years bringing with it England’s biggest rivalry in the North West Derby between Liverpool and Manchester United. The ICC is, of course, no stranger to Michigan with this match marking the third consecutive year a match was played in Michigan (2016 & 2018 at Michigan Stadium, 2017 at Comerica Park). United were no stranger to the Big House, as their previous encounter with Real Madrid in Ann Arbor back in 2014 broke the record for highest attended soccer match in the United States (109,318).
It was an atmosphere like few other sporting events as over 100,000 fans packed into the home of Michigan football to welcome their favorite sides. Whether it was the roaming Liverpool fans cheering ‘Allez, allez, allez’ in the concourse, or stars like Mo Salah, David De Gea, and even Jose Mourinho getting massive receptions when stepping out onto the pitch, the pre-match atmosphere was electric as fans packed the player entrance of the stadium just to get a glimpse of their heroes.
When it came to the match, however, it was Liverpool fans who got the most joy out of their afternoon. In the first half we saw a Liverpool side that was close to full-strength despite Naby Keïta and Loris Karius both missing out through injury. United, on the other hand, had a few stalwarts like Alexis Sanchez and Juan Mata in the line-up, but featured plenty of young players as well.
The first half saw Liverpool dominate possesion and run of play. Mo Salah came close from a header which was saved well by United’s new back-up keeper and former Stoke City player, Lee Grant. It was Salah who was brought down in the box to earn Liverpool a penalty kick and Sadio Mané found the bottom corner to grant Liverpool a 1-0 lead. United who struck back courtesy of a stunning Andreas Pereira free kick as he froze Liverpool’s young keeper Kamil Grabara with a picture-perfect attempt. It was 1-1 at the half with the story being that Mourinho’s United were playing like Mourinho’s United while Klopp’s Liverpool were playing like Klopp’s Liverpool. Fans were seeing these two teams do exactly what they were known for as United played smart defensive soccer hitting on the counter as Liverpool tried to push the tempo.
The second half brought the fireworks. Once Liverpool brought on the fresh legs of Daniel Sturridge, things changed quickly. Xherdan Shaqiri’s impact, too, was immediately felt as he brought down a long ball, held off United’s Eric Bailly, and found Sturridge who slotted the ball coolly into the net as he continues his brilliant preseason form. The party continued when Andy Robertson, Liverpool’s fan favorite left-back, was brought down in the box and winger Sheyi Ojo beat United’s Joel Pereira in goal to make it 3-1.
If these 3 goals were Liverpool building up to something, the 4th was the showstopper. Ben Woodburn, Liverpool’s youngest ever goal scorer, earning that achievement back in 2016, clipped in a cross into the box seemingly to see if anyone could deliver. Enter Shaqiri. Liverpool’s new man leapt into the air, bicycle-kicked the ball with his favored left foot and found it a home in the back of the net. Fans of both sides could only stand and applaud -- though Liverpool’s fans certainly did so with more vigor. It was an exclamation point to what was a rousing success in Liverpool’s final match in the United States this year.
For United, they could only look at what was an effort lacking in true substance. Jose Mourinho, in the post-match press conference, gave his side plenty of criticism while also confirmed some unfortunate news for his team that Nemanja Matic would miss the at least the start of the season with an injury
problem from the World Cup. There were some positives, Mourinho praised the attitude of some of his veterans, including Bailly who was not supposed to play until Chris Smalling suffered a pre-match knock. There was also Andreas Pereira’s performance and goal as a bright spot on the day, but the 4-1 score
line is quite telling and one they will hope to work past.
Jurgen Klopp’s men had a performance to be proud of. Shaqiri stole the headlines with his beautiful bicycle kick and a top-class assist, but there were plenty of other strong performances against an admittedly weaker-than-normal United side. Mo Salah, Sadio Mané and Adam Lallana all started and all looked incredibly smooth on the ball. Virgil van Dijk remains immense in the air and an absolute rock in defense. Young right-back Rafa Camacho continues to impress with the first team and surely will get opportunities at the U23-U18 levels at his more favored right-wing. Sturridge provided a glimpse of his old form for a side who would love to have an outstanding back-up striker behind Roberto Firmino.
No matter what team you support, and regardless of feeling about the result, what is clear that the event was a rousing success. An official attendance of 101,254 marks what is another well-attended soccer match in Ann Arbor in the biggest stadium in the country. Michigan is developing into a soccer hotbed in the Midwest with strong support for local, collegiate, and international levels of soccer alike.
From the Big House: Manchester United
Written By: Michael Kroodsma
Well, what can I say about the performance that Manchester United put in against Liverpool at the Big House in Ann Arbor on Saturday?
It was poor.
I know, I know. It’s the preseason, and sure there’s about a full starting elevens worth of players missing from the side. But that’s not what concerns me about the 4-1 embarrassment that Liverpool laid on United.
Some credit has to go to Liverpool for the result, because they were ultimately uninspiring throughout, so to score 4 playing the way they did is some feat. Two penalties tucked away, Sturridge hits the post (which on the day went in, but any other day could deflect a little differently and stay out) and then there was the goal from Xherdan Shaqiri. Shaq‘s goal was special, and it’s certainly the best goal I’ve ever seen in person. That will live long in the memory. I stand by my initial assessment when Stoke went down at the end of last season that United should have signed him.
Despite that moment of brilliance, though, Liverpool didn’t offer much else. It came as quite a shock to me when at the end of the match the statistics flashed across the big screen in the stadium and I realized Liverpool had managed 15 shots in the match and 9 on target. It didn’t feel like that at all. Sadio Mané was the only dangerous player for Liverpool, and he made Matteo Darmian look foolish on several occasions (more on that later). Mohamed Salah, other than stealing the hearts of 101,000 fans, didn’t offer much going forward, despite winning the first penalty.
Again, I’m aware it’s preseason, so most of the lads out there that are established first team players for either side were going 65, maybe 70 percent. But my feeling is that this was a winnable match for United, if they had gotten their tactics right, which they absolutely did not.
As for United, I don’t know where to start with this lot. Mourinho is intentionally sabotaging this preseason to try and squeeze more signings out of the Glazer/Woodward contingent. That’s the only logical explanation for how negatively we’ve set out in each match of this preseason in the US.
I mentioned Darmian, who’s an easy target to lay some blame on, simply for how many times Mané walked past him yesterday. In truth, it’s his position that worries me. Our wing backs aren’t good enough. I think this could be a problematic position for United all season if it’s not sorted out quickly, and Mané evidenced this several times on Saturday.
Moving further forward - I feel bad for Alexis. He runs his socks off every match, doesn’t have the support around him going forward, and then ends up looking to so many United supporters like we've wasted money on signing him. The reality is he is an extremely talented player who would thrive with even one other pacy, skillful winger on the opposite side of the field to draw some of that attention away from him and free up some space for him to attack. Alexis had another tough go against Liverpool, despite the mostly positive preseason he’s been having.
This match was typical of Mourinho, tactically speaking. We set up to lose. We held on to possession for too long, with no aim or direction, and we didn’t make the most of the 2 or 3 chances we did get from open play going forward. Things will need to change quickly, or else it’s going to be another long season for United in 2018-19.
I’ve been a bit negative so far (I mean we did lose 4-1 to Liverpool after all), so let me touch on a few positives:
1.) Andreas Pereira
He’s been the best United player on the tour so far, and particularly in this match. His free kick was superb. What I love about Pereira is that he has gone off to Spain for a season, played well with Valencia and has come back to prove a point. I really believe that he’s earned a spot in the side for this year. He’s a talented player with a bright future and he’s willing to work hard for the club. You have to love that.
2.) Fred made his debut
Not too much can be said about Fred’s 20-odd minute debut, but I think that he will be a key figure for us this season. It was cool to be there and see his first touches as a United player and I’m looking forward to big things this season from the Brazilian.
3.) Lee Grant
I actually felt Liverpool were more dangerous in the 1st half, and Grant looked sharp throughout. He’s a strong, confident keeper that probably won’t see the pitch more than once or twice this year, but if Romero gets injured, Grant could fill in well.
Credit to Liverpool for winning the match. They were easily the better side throughout. United will have a long season ahead if the tactics don’t change, regardless of who’s in the side, because there isn’t a team on earth that could play that disconnected and negative and still win. I’m very nervous that there’s more like this performance to come, especially with our key players expected to miss the start of the season. Hopefully things change quickly for United.