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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- There wasn't a lot of blue inside Michigan Stadium on Saturday (Aug. 2).
Red was the overwhelming hue, punctuated with several spots of white, and for once, Wolverine fans didn't mind one bit.
When Manchester United and Real Madrid took the field for the premier game of the 2014 Guinness International Champions Cup, it was in front of a record crowd of 109,318 -- the largest to attend a soccer match in the United States.
Today's attendance shattered the previous standard, 101,799, established 30 years ago for the gold-medal final of the 1984 Olympics. That game, along with most of the other top-attended U.S. soccer events, was held at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.
"It was great to play in it," said Manchester United defender Michael Keane, who played all 90 minutes. "It's obviously the biggest crowd I've ever played in front of. It was great experience. Just a massive stadium, and the fans were great. Considering football is not supposed to be that big in America, it was a massive game, wasn't it? It's obviously growing over here, and hopefully that will continue."
"It was a fantastic atmosphere, because we aren't used to playing in front of a lot of people like we did today," said Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti. "It was a fun time. We tried to do our best to give joy to the people, and I think that the game in general was a good game."
Manchester United claimed the 3-1 victory, earning two goals from midfielder Ashley Young in the first half -- including an impressive pass play in front to open scoring in the 21st minute -- and another on a header from Javier Hernandez to ice the game in the 80th minute. Midfielder Gareth Bale scored the lone goal from Real Madrid on a first-half penalty kick, finding the lower right-side corner of the net to temporarily even the score in the 27th minute.
Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo, who was not expected to play, substituted in late -- to a raucous ovation -- and played the final 17 minutes of the friendly against his former club.
With the win, Manchester United earned a spot in the ICC championship game and will face Liverpool on Monday (Aug. 4) at The Sun Life Stadium in Miami, Fla.
"Yesterday I was asked the question, 'Why is Manchester United here?' and I said there are competitors in this tournament and great clubs, but I said also for the commercial activities," explained Manchester United coach Louis van Gaal. "That is also very important for the club. Over the last 14 days, we have played for more than 300,000 fans. This is amazing -- and all in preparation time. The atmosphere was fantastic, whether you are a Manchester United fan or not. The game was not a friendly game. I got the feeling that Real Madrid did not want to lose. That's why he [Carlo Ancelotti] substituted for Ronaldo a little bit earlier than he has been. Nevertheless, we have won, and I think that we deserved to win."
Though it was just a preseason friendly, far from home for two of Europe's most historic clubs, the buzz and excitement in the Big House on Saturday certainly made for a unique and memorable day for fans and players alike.
Today's contest was the first soccer match ever played inside Michigan Stadium. It is the second non-football, non-NCAA game featured this year, joining the NHL's 2014 Winter Classic.
The announced attendance of 109,318 is the largest crowd to ever witness a soccer game in the United States. It was just the third time that a soccer game eclipsed the 100,000-fan mark and the first time outside of the Rose Bowl.
LARGEST SOCCER CROWDS IN UNITED STATES
|2014||ICC||Manchester United 3, Real Madrid 1||109,318||Michigan Stadium|
|1984||Olympics||France 2, Brazil 0||101,799||Rose Bowl|
|1984||Olympics||Yugoslavia 2, Italy 1||100,374||Rose Bowl|
|1984||Olympics||France 4, Yugoslavia 2||97,451||Rose Bowl|
|1994||World Cup||Brazil 0, Italy 0||94,194||Rose Bowl|
Michigan Stadium now holds the U.S. attendance records for football, hockey and soccer.
Today's game marked the first time either club played in the state of Michigan.
The Fray performed two songs during halftime of today's match. Approximately 200 volunteers helped with the performance.
Manchester United's Ashley Young was named the Guinness Man of the Match after scoring two goals. Man U captain Darren Fletcher also earned several votes after posting a pair of assists.
Players from both teams participated in some light training following the match, with many fans sticking around to watch.
The estimated economic impact of the game for Washtenaw County could reach $15-20 million.
Wolverine Soccer Programs Become Weekend Fans
The Michigan men's and women's soccer programs are just days away from the start of 2014 preseason practices -- and then just another few weeks from their season openers. But this weekend, the teams had the chance to be fans, joining other from around the country and the world to cheer on two of the premier clubs in the world in their own backyard.
"I think it's just fantastic for the University of Michigan and the athletic department," said Michigan head women's soccer coach Greg Ryan. "We've done an amazing job hosting this event. It's come off so well, and it's being watched around the world. It's awesome. It just shows what a wonderful place this is."
"This has probably been one of the best experiences of my time at Michigan, if not my life," said fifth-year senior men's soccer player Tyler Arnone. "The atmosphere is absolutely amazing; the game has been fantastic. For those who think soccer is a low-scoring, boring game, this is proof otherwise. The goals have been great. I'm just taking it all in -- as a fan, as a player -- and enjoying the day."
"They're having a great time," said Ryan. "It's an amazing soccer game with some of the best players in the world, and what a great opportunity just before the preseason to get together, have fun and enjoy an event like this."
The women open their season on Aug. 22 at home against Cal State Northridge, while the men lift the lid on their 2014 schedule on Aug. 29 against Florida International at the U-M Soccer Stadium.
The Rainbow Connection Fulfills Michigan Teenager's Dream
Ali Khcheice had quite the experience around the ICC game between Real Madrid and Manchester United with the assistance of the Rainbow Connection, a non-profit organization that grants wishes to Michigan children with life-threatening or terminal illnesses. Khcheice, a 14 year old from Dearborn Heights, was diagnosed with lymphoma in June 2013. After suffering a relapse earlier this year, he received a lifesaving bone marrow transplant.
On Friday, Khcheice and his family attended the open training sessions at Michigan Stadium. He received multiple autographs from members of Real Madrid and made memories that will last a lifetime.
On Saturday, Khcheice attended a pre-match event in the University of Michigan Regents Suite. During halftime, Khcheice and his family met with U-M men's and women's soccer players and head coaches Chaka Daley and Greg Ryan. The group met at the block M on the north side of the Big House and got to spend a few minutes chatting.
"This whole weekend has been really fun and life changing," Khcheice said at halftime of the match. "I really hope I have a chance to do it again. I met some of my favorite players (on Friday)."
He remained confident of Real Madrid's chances in the second half despite a 2-1 halftime deficit, declaring that "they will" turn it around.
For a lifelong Real Madrid fan, this weekend proved unforgettable for Khcheice even if Los Blancos came out on the losing end.
A Different Viewpoint
It takes a lot of people to pull off an event like this. It was treated just like a Michigan football Saturday for a lot of U-M Athletics staff, but a select group of people were afforded an opportunity that not many can claim. With the national anthem singing by L'Renee and halftime performance by The Fray, a group of about 200 volunteers, including numerous Wolverine student-athletes, got to see Michigan Stadium from a completely different viewpoint: the field.
"It was an awesome feeling being out there," Michigan women's tennis senior Sarah Lee said. "It was so exhilarating to be out there in front of that crowd. My job wasn't that big, but with all of our jobs put together, we were able to make everything work. Hearing the stadium roar from the field was amazing. I have never really seen the stadium filled with that much red and not Michigan colors, but it was great to see an international atmosphere, with people from all over the world coming here. This is what makes it so great to be at Michigan, getting these opportunities to be part of something like this."
Volunteers were asked to participate in two rehearsals, one on Friday and one on Saturday. They had to wear all black to the game and were responsible for holding the large American field flag during the Anthem, holding ceremonial flags during halftime and helped with speaker set up for the performance by the Fray. Following halftime, each volunteer received a complimentary ticket to watch the second half. Back to the view that 109,901 people enjoy on Saturday's during the fall.
Natural grass, provided by Bush Turf of Milan, Ill., was installed prior to the match beginning on Tuesday (July 29) and concluding on Thursday (July 31). The original schedule of a Wednesday completion was delayed due to rain, which postponed the transport of the turf from the sod farm in New Jersey. The last time Michigan Stadium had natural grass was in 2002, when the surface gave way to FieldTurf (now Duraspine). Duraspine is the current playing surface for the Michigan football team, as well as men's and women's lacrosse.
Natural grass was the surface on the field at Michigan Stadium from 1991-2002 and 1927-1968. Grass has been viewed problematic to grow at the Big House due to the below-surface location of the playing field/stadium.
The full turf installation was completed on Wednesday (July 30). A pattern was mowed into the surface Thursday afternoon and was lined shortly after.
The #ICC2014 from Twitter's Eyes
The Big House is a flexible one. Michigan Stadium has been busy hosting soccer, hockey and, of course, football. pic.twitter.com/3J9jAm7giY-- SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 2, 2014
109,318 people at Man United-Real Madrid, breaking attendance record for a soccer game in the U.S. by over 7K.-- Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) August 2, 2014
RONALDO ABOUT TO CHECK IN!! pic.twitter.com/SLPbNkNOAx-- Andrew Dakich (@daycheck3) August 2, 2014
Ann Arbor, soccer capital of the United States.-- Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) August 2, 2014
Michigan Stadium now holds the U.S. attendance record for football, hockey, and soccer competitions.-- Drew Hallett (@DrewCHallett) August 2, 2014