Mata, Rooney lift United to Cup title
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 Wayne Rooney and Manchester United.
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.
"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."
Steven Gerrard scored on a penalty kick in the 14th minute for Liverpool, which topped United twice last season in Premier League play.
Last season was wildly disappointing by United standards, but it is now 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 preseason 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 of America and also at home that we beat Liverpool," van Gaal said. "It's not our favorite 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."
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 evident 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.
"Overall, I'm delighted with the whole tournament," said Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, who came away confident that his club will be ready for the start of Premier League play in about two weeks. "We worked very, very hard."
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 Liverpool had a 1-0 lead.
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.