Reds spot on to beat AC Milan on penalties
Manchester United beat AC Milan 5-4 on penalties in the International Champions Cup in Cardiff to complete an unbeaten 2019 pre-season campaign.
The topsy-turvy game at the Principality Stadium finished deadlocked at 2-2 after 90 minutes, but substitute Daniel James struck the winning spot-kick after David De Gea saved Daniel Maldini’s weak effort.
Earlier, Marcus Rashford had given United the lead, before former Liverpool man Suso restored parity.
Samu Castillejo’s deflected header off Victor Lindelof put Milan in front on the hour mark, but the Reds fought back to level through substitute Jesse Lingard and send the match to a shoot-out.
The result puts us on eight points in the International Champions Cup table, meaning Benfica cannot be caught and are ICC champions for 2019.
Ole opted to make three changes to the side which beat Kristiansund in Oslo, with Marcos Rojo, Juan Mata – the injury-time goalscorer at the Ullevaal Stadium - and Andreas Pereira replacing Phil Jones, Lingard and James.
It marked the first time James had missed out on the Reds’ starting line-up after being selected from the off in all five of our pre-season games so far.
After thunderstorms were forecast in the Welsh capital, the decision was made to close the roof of the Principality Stadium and the stifling atmosphere inside the ground perhaps explained the relatively slow start, with both sides taking time to grow into the game.
United dominated the early possession, and it was Andreas who had our first sighter after nine minutes, shooting just wide of Gianluigi Donnarumma’s goal from the edge of the penalty area.
Italy’s no.1 was then called into action, beating away Rashford’s rasping effort, but Donnarumma could do nothing about the 21-year-old's goal on 14 minutes.
Rashford, as he has done so often in a red shirt, ran free down the left flank after being played in by Nemanja Matic and cut inside, striking the ball beyond the keeper,to send the largely partisan crowd wild.
United were seemingly in control of the game and looking for more goals - but Milan hit back on 25 minutes, courtesy of Suso.
The Spaniard - who netted against us at the Rose Bowl in last year’s ICC – had given us prior warning with a speculative effort that curled wide of De Gea’s far post.
From the resulting goal-kick, United lost possession in midfield and Suso was allowed to steady himself and shoot from range with his left again – and this time the ball nestled in the back of the net.
Visibly buoyed by their equaliser, the Rossoneri started to find more joy in midfield areas and almost took the lead when De Gea made a smart save to prevent Krzysztof Piatek from nodding in Suso’s whipped cross.
United’s captain was again on hand to rescue his side just before half-time, flipping clear to deny Piatek once more after the Polish striker had wrongfooted Victor Lindelof inside the box.
The Italians started the second period in the same way they finished the first, and Piatek should have done better than shoot straight at De Gea after finding time and space in behind the Reds’ backline, presumably wrongly thinking he was offside.
After Lindelof headed straight at Donnarumma, Castillejo’s flick from a Milan cross diverted in off the Swedish centre-back to give the Rossoneri a 2-1 lead on the hour mark.
Having opted against making any changes at the interval, Ole then made five in response to going behind, with Fred, James, Lingard, Axel Tuanzebe and Ashley Young all introduced.
Despite the crowd’s vociferous support for Welsh favourite James, it was Lingard who made an almost instant impact, firing home with his left foot after Anthony Martial’s cute pass to level the scores with 18 minutes left to play.
Confusion at the back almost allowed the Rossoneri in for a third, moments later, but Tuanzebe got across well to block Piatek and alleviate the danger as the majority of the 65,982 in attendance at the Principality Stadium bayed for a United winner.
Angel Gomes and Mason Greenwood were thrown on in place of Rashford and Martial for the final 10 minutes and the youngsters proved lively, while Fred curled a free-kick over the bar with almost the final kick of the game.
And so, as per International Champions Cup rules, it went to penalties.
In an echo of last year’s match in the US, each side’s first four penalties were expertly struck, with Lingard, Young, Greenwood and Gomes on target for United. De Gea then saved from Maldini - son of Milan legend Paolo - allowing James to slot home the winning spot-kick for the Reds.
United: De Gea (c); Wan-Bissaka (Young 64), Lindelof, Rojo (Tuanzebe 64), Shaw; Matic (Fred 64), McTominay; A. Pereira (Lingard 64), Mata (James 64), Martial (Greenwood 82); Rashford (Gomes 82).
Subs not used: Romero, Grant, Dalot, Jones, Smalling, Chong.
Goalscorers: Rashford 14, Lingard 72
AC Milan: G. Donnarumma (Reina 64), Calabria (Conti 77), Musacchio, Romagnoli (c) (Gabbia 77), Rodriguez (Strinic 77); Borini (Brescianni 77), Biglia (Krunic 64), Calhanoglu; Suso (Bonaventura 77); Piatek (Maldini 77), Castillejo (Andre Silva 64).
Subs not used: A. Donnarumma, Mionic, Leao.
Goalscorers: Suso 25, Lindelof og 60