What United need to win the ICC
Manchester United are gearing up for our final game of Tour 2019 on Saturday, when we take on AC Milan in the International Champions Cup (ICC) at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff.
As well as wins against Perth Glory, Leeds United and Kristiansund this summer, the Reds have also beaten Inter Milan and Tottenham Hotspur in the ICC, meaning we are potentially just one victory away from being crowned the overall champions of the pre-season tournament.
United are one of only two sides with a 100 per cent in the ICC to date - the other being Portuguese champions Benfica.
The Aguias have already played all of their three games in the competition, beating Guadalajara, Fiorentina and AC Milan, and they currently sit top of the table with nine points.
United are, therefore, the only side who could match their points tally - something we would achieve with a win in 90 minutes on Saturday - although, a victory against Milan would not necessarily see us finish first in the 12-team group.
The ICC rules state that when teams end on the same number of points, they will be separated by head-to-head clashes - which would be irrelevant in this case as we have not played Benfica in this year’s competition - and then, secondly, on goal difference.
Benfica finished their ICC campaign with a goal difference of +5, and with United currently on +2, we must win by three goals against Milan to equal the Portuguese side’s record. A three-goal winning margin would also leave us level with Benfica on goals for and against, which follows goal difference in separating sides level on points.
In such a scenario, the league winner would actually be decided by results against a common opponent, with a three-goal win against Milan trumping Benfica’s 1-0 victory over the Rossoneri last Sunday.
Therefore, the objective for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men is simple: a win by three or more goals in Cardiff would secure top spot in the ICC group, but a victory by less than three goals, or a draw or defeat, on Saturday would hand Benfica the crown.
A United win against Milan by a one or two-goal margin means we definitely would finish as runners-up, given that no other side can match our points tally.
In the ICC, drawn games go to a penalty shoot-out, with the winning team being awarded two points, while the losers on spot-kicks receive just one point.
That means a win on penalties for the Reds would see us finish second, unless Atletico Madrid beat Juventus in 90 minutes next week. In such a scenario, we would end the campaign in third.
A loss on penalties to Milan means we could finish either third or fourth, depending again on the Atletico Madrid-Juventus result, while a defeat in 90 minutes would see us end up somewhere between fourth and sixth in the table.
Yes, the Reds won the competition in 2014, when it was structured as an eight-team tournament with a final to crown the champions.
Five years ago we beat Roma, Inter Milan (on penalties) and Real Madrid in the initial group phase and our first-place finish meant we met the other group winners - Liverpool - in the showpiece final in Miami.
On that afternoon, goals from Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard ensured we overturned an early Steven Gerrard penalty to win 3-1.
Real Madrid won the inaugural ICC tournament in 2013, beating Chelsea in the final. Two years later, Paris Saint-Germain were crowned champions of the competition, which was spread across various continents for the first time, and they reclaimed that title 12 months later.
In 2017, Barcelona won the ICC and last year it was Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham Hotspur who emerged top of the pile, when the ICC grouped all sides together in one worldwide table for the first time.
After winning the competition in 2014, the following season we finished third from 10 teams in the North America and Europe section.
The Reds beat Mexican side Club America, American outfit San Jose Earthquakes and La Liga’s Barcelona that year, before losing to eventual champions PSG in the final game.
In 2016, United actually only played one game after our clash against Manchester City in Beijing was cancelled due to extreme weather. Our solidarity match that year was one to forget: a 4-1 defeat to Borussia Dortmund.
The following campaign, we finished fourth after beating City 2-0 and overcoming Real Madrid on penalties, before finishing with a 1-0 loss to Barcelona.
Twelve months later, the Reds ultimately ended ninth in the 18-team table, after beating AC Milan on penalties, losing to Liverpool and overcoming Real Madrid 2-1 in the three games.
The final game of our pre-season campaign, against AC Milan in Cardiff, on Saturday will be shown live on MUTV, with kick-off at 17:36 BST.
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