THE BLOG
08/07/2014 09:30 am ET Updated Oct 07, 2014

Manchester United FC vs Liverpool FC, A Tale of Two Halves

In the pre-match build-up, newly anointed manager, Louis van Gaal, awarded Wayne Rooney the captain's armband. The decision will surely inject an immediate chemistry into their player-manager relationship. Fox Sports commentators established that there was some question whether 1-year team member and Dutch national striker, Robin van Persie, would receive the honor. However, it seems in all likelihood that the Englishman with nearly a decade under his belt at Manchester United will be receiving the honor in each match he starts. Rooney's play throughout the International Champions Cup preseason friendly play has been needle-sharp and he continued this play throughout the full 90 minutes he played in the humid Miami night.

The beginning of the game effectuated a tense opening for the Red Devil's as possession in the midfield was often frequently fleeting and infrequent in occurrence; this led to quick dangerous counterattacks from a Liverpool side without standout forwards, Daniel Sturridge or Luis Suárez (now on suspension at Barcelona). An early injury necessitated the inclusion of Luke Shaw, who replaced the injured Antonio Valencia. In the 13th minute, an awkward tackle by Phil Jones on the agilely advancing Raheem Sterling led to a penalty kick. The penalty kick fell to the right boot of Steven Gerrard, who promptly placed the ball in the lower left net, moving Liverpool ahead, 1-0. Liverpool's early dominance in midfield was clearly visible when comparing the disparate play of Darren Fletcher of United and Philippe Coutinho of Liverpool. Fletcher's passing technique struggled throughout the first 20 minutes of the game as he vies for a regular first team role in the team as the season approaches and transfer window elapses. Liverpool's Coutinho continues to draw acclaim for his ability to deke opposing players. Many times during the contest, he managed to seemingly undress Manchester United players, leaving them behind with mouths agape.

At the half-hour mark, Manchester United's attack looked tense and toothless, their passing remaining bogged down in the midfield and even their set pieces not producing shots, let alone shots on target. The Manchester United defense was almost exposed, as a second Sterling dribble demanded a tackle back from Ander Herrera, which debatably could have easily drawn a second penalty. The halftime whistle arrived early as the humidity seemed to not only affect the smoke from the opening fireworks, but also the playing conditions for players and referee crew alike.

In the second half, Manchester's passing picked up, leading to early chances and equal attacking play on both sides of the ball. In the 55th minute, a stroke of brilliance came about, as Herrera's marauding defense led not only to a takeaway, but a well-weighted through ball to Javi "Chicharito" Hernandez, whose cross across the box led to a world class finish from a weak foot shot from none other than Wayne Rooney. Two minutes later, Juan Mata's goal continued to prove the improvement in passing, as his deflected shot broke the goal line and lead to a 2-1 Manchester United lead. Throughout the second half, Manchester's attack displayed the 3-5-2 formation's tremendous potential for free-flowing attack from midfield through various attacking opportunities. A third goal was added to MUFC's tally, as Ashley Young's crossing ball was settled by Shinji Kagawa for a dipping volley from Jesse Lingard into the right corner. The goal sealed the game and the championship result for Manchester United at 3-1.

In Monday's comeback victory over Liverpool, van Gaal's strategies forecast a bright new future for the club under his direction. The 3-5-2 formation supported by Dutch Total Football tactics seem to bolster United's attack, which seemed dormant the past year under previous manager David Moyes. The fifth consecutive win, although only in friendly play, should provide a bright spark of hope for the team's growth and a hopeful return to the top of the table and Champions League play. Both teams should be highly competitive once they return to English soil, despite the skew in difficulty of schedule in each team's first five matches. The Red Devils, pursuing this course, should make a quick 180-degree turn and return to their accustomed seat at the big clubs' table in the Barclays Premier League and European league play in general. Be sure to look for their dazzling play this year on the NBC Sports Network.