After the end of the 2018 World Cup, Arizona soccer fans were treated to a friendly matchup between two of the top soccer teams in the world as Manchester United and Club America showcased the sport July 19 at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Fans arrived nearly three hours before kickoff and were showing their excitement before entering the stadium.
“I have been waiting for this for months and they didn’t disappoint,” Goodyear resident Cesar Ramirez said. “I was so glad to see a large crowd for the greatest sport in the world with some of the greatest athletes showcasing their talent here in Arizona.”
The game lived up to fans’ expectations as Manchester United opened its tour of the United States showcasing new, young players and showing why it is one of the top sports teams in the world.
“I brought my two kids and they are so excited to see the game,” Phoenix resident Elizabeth Jablonski said. “My kids have been talking about seeing this game and it is finally here and they are hoping to get autographs and pictures when the doors open.”
A rambunctious crowd of 37,766 saw Manchester United and Club America battle to a 1-1 draw after a scoreless first half.
Club America got on the scoreboard first when, eight minutes into the second half, Manchester United goalkeeper Andreas Pereira made a kick save, but the ball bounced out and the defense couldn’t control the ball.
Club America midfielder Antonio Lopez grabbed the rebound and sailed a high pass to Henry Martin who headed the ball into the net.
Manchester United tied the game up with approximately seven minutes left in regulation when Juan Mata took a pass and fired a shot that slid between Manchester United goaltender Agustin Marchesin’s legs to tie the game at one.
“We knew it was going to be a tough battle,” Mata said. “(Manchester United) has been training for us for a long time, so I think they might have been better conditioned than us. We managed to get one goal, so we are happy with the outcome and that we had no injuries.”
While the two teams battled to a scoreless tie in the first half, Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho knows his team wasted scoring chances.
“In the first half, we were the best team, we had the best chances,” Mourinho said. “We just didn’t finish those chances.”
Manchester United had numerous chances early in the first half when, nine minutes into the game, Anthony Martial was dragged down on a tackle inside the box. After the referees huddled and discussed the foul, the call was changed to outside the box and instead of a penalty kick, Manchester United got a free kick from 25 yards out.
Martial took the free kick and fired a shot that was knocked away by Club America defender Luis Reyes, ending the first scoring attempt of the game.
“We had some good chances early and just didn’t take advantage of them,” Mourinho said. “The guys had some good shots, but they went wide or over the net.”
Three minutes later, Club America had its first scoring chance when Andres Ibarguen took a pass and raced down the sideline, cutting inside, but the ball was knocked away by Manchester United defender Antonio Valencia.
Thirty minutes into the first half, Club America’s Renato Ibarra dribbled the ball down the right sideline into the corner and fired a centering pass in front that was knocked away by Manchester United defender Chris Smalling. Less than a minute later, Ibarguen took a pass in front and fired a shot from 20 yards out that was knocked away on a diving stop by Grant for his lone huge save.
“We knew it was going to be difficult because they have been training for us for weeks, so I think they had their chances,” Grant said. “The atmosphere was fun and the crowd was really into the game and you could feel that.”
Manchester United continues its tour of the United States with a game July 28 against Liverpool at Michigan Stadium.