MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — It’s only a preseason 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 longtime rival Liverpool 3-1 in the title match of 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.
“It’s obviously great to win the game and win the tournament,” Rooney said in an on-field interview after the match. “We worked hard in preseason and to go unbeaten gives us confidence.”
The teams mingled on the field after the trophy presentation, though there is certainly no such thing as a true “friendly” between these clubs — which have combined for 38 English championships and well over 100 trophies worldwide.
And when Rooney got the equalizer, it was clear this was no meaningless match for him, either.
He volleyed home a long 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.”
The scoring opened in the 14th minute, on a play that Manchester United argued to no avail.
Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling chased down a ball on the left side of the box near the goal line, as Manchester United’s Phil Jones scurried over to defend. Jones went for a slide tackle and while replays showed he appeared to make contact with the ball, the play also sent Sterling to the grass — and referee Mark Geiger immediately signaled for a penalty kick.
Gerrard went one way, Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea guessed the other, and just like that Liverpool had a 1-0 lead.
That score was one of three blows United took in the opening minutes.
Chicharito had a great chance near the goalmouth shortly after play got underway, failing to convert after being set up by Darren Fletcher. And not long afterward, midfielder Antonio Valencia was subbed out and walked off the field for evaluation after being shaken up.
Then again, the early going also could have gone worse for United.
Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson had a great chance on a header from about 6 yards off a set piece, sending the ball just over the crossbar. And about 10 minutes after the penalty kick, De Gea made a point-blank stop to keep United within a goal.
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 topped Chelsea in last year’s final.
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