By Bill McCaughey
For the Fort Bend Star
Meeting for the first time outside of England, Manchester United beat Manchester City 2-0 in an International Champions Cup match at NRG Stadium last Thursday.
United’s Romelu Lukaku scored in the 37th minute when City’s goal keeper Phil Foden came out of the goal to intercept a long kick towards his right corner, but misjudged the ball and as it rolled toward the corner, Lukaku ran down the ball scored from a sharp angle. Two minutes later, young star Marcus Rashford received a pass on the left side of Foden, rushed past a defender and scored to make the score 2-0.
This was the 175th time these two teams have played each other. United leads the derby with 73 wins. City has 50 wins and there have been 52 draws. A derby, which is pronounced darby in England, is a match between teams that are geographically located close to each other. The Manchester derby is usually a fierce game, even if it is a friendly, or exhibition game.
“It’s a friendly, but it’s never really played as a friendly,” Vincent Kompany, Manchester City captain, said. “My situation is pretty simple. My wife is from Manchester, and she is a blue (City fan). But her family is divided between red (United fan) and blue, so when we get together at Christmas, it can be an issue sometimes. And that is what it’s all about.”
“It’s a different feeling playing the derby in Houston. We are so used to playing it in Manchester. But I think it’s good to play it elsewhere,” Marcus Rashford, Manchester United forward, said. “The fans can see a different game. And even though it’s a friendly, it’s never a friendly on the pitch.”
“A derby is always hard fought, even if it’s a friendly,” David McDonnell, football reporter for the Daily Mirror in London, said. “The first Manchester derby outside of England was supposed to be played in Beijing last year at this time, but heavy rains made the pitch unplayable. So, a year later it’s being played in Houston.”
Both teams play in the English Premier League, and are among the most valuable teams in the world. In the latest Forbes ranking of most valuable sports teams, Manchester United ranked 3rd with a value of $3.69 billion, just behind the Dallas Cowboys at $4.2 billion and the New York Yankees at $3.7 billion. Manchester City was ranked 35th at $2.083 billion, and for those wondering, the Houston Texans are ranked 20th at $2.6 billion.
The International Champions Cup began in 2013. Instead of an NFL style training camp, the European soccer clubs typically take a world tour during their preseason. This allows the team to train outside of their home facilities, and it also generates revenue and creates fans outside of England. A problem was finding world-class competition to practice against.
Seeing an opportunity, Relevent Sports created the International Champions Cup in 2013 so world-class teams could compete against each other and generate revenue and fans. This year, AS Roma, Paris Saint Germain, Manchester United, Manchester City, Juventus, FC Barcelona, Tottenham Hotspur, and Real Madrid will compete at various venues across the United States. Houston was selected to host the Manchester United – Manchester City match.
“It’s a competitive training session. A training session you try to win but still it’s a training session. We had two matches against MLS teams, but now it’s time to raise the level of competition to prepare us for the season. We will face three of the best teams in Europe, Manchester City, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona,” Josie Mourinho, Manchester United coach said.
As for playing Manchester City, Mourinho is more interested in training than getting a win. “I don’t know if they (City) want to win the tournament or win the derby,” Mourinho said. “I know what I want, and I want to give minutes to my players. To improve, to make mistakes, to train to stop from making those mistakes.”
Houston’s NRG Stadium has impressed the teams. “The facilities and organization are perfect. We would like to be back again,” Mourinho said. “The conditions are phenomenal here.”