Dutch delight as Young strikes on double in front of record attendance
Javier Hernandez confirmed a Manchester United v Liverpool showdown in Miami tonight with a diving header to seal a 3-1 victory against Real Madrid in front of 109,318 fans – the biggest crowd ever to witness a football game in the United States.
Hernandez struck on 80 minutes after two first-half strikes from Ashley Young, either side of a Gareth Bale penalty, had given Louis van Gaal's team a 2-1 half-time lead.
"It's Liverpool in the final?" said Van Gaal. "Ok! Thank you! It is good for English football and very important that two teams from the Premier League will play in the final.
"It is also preparation time for them. In the long term, it won't tell us anything. But it is better to win than lose.
"The crowd here was amazing. Within 14 days, we have played for more than 300,000 fans in the States and that is amazing in preparation time," he added.
United's victories against AS Roma and Inter Milan prior to the encounter with Real had taken Van Gaal's team into top spot, ensuring that they would progress to tonight's final if they avoided defeat here.
Real, in contrast, had lost both group fixtures against the Italian clubs and knew that their next stop would be Madrid, with Carlo Ancelotti's team returning home to continue preparation for the new La Liga season and the Super Cup clash with Sevilla in Cardiff on August 12.
Despite the absence of some of Real's star names, this remained a box office occasion for the Michigan college town of Ann Arbor and its enormous Big House stadium.
Tickets for the fixture sold out within a day of going on sale earlier this year, ensuring it would surpass the 94,194 crowd which attended the 1994 World Cup between Italy and Brazil at the Pasadena Rose Bowl as the biggest ever to witness a soccer game in the States.
The crowd was also the biggest that United played in front of since their 1957 European Cup semi-final against Real at the Bernabeu, when 120,000 turned out to see the home side defeat the Busby Babes.
Van Gaal's players began the game much brighter than the European champions and Darren Fletcher – captain for the night – went close before United took the lead on 20 minutes when Young finished off a stunning move of 20 passes, with Fletcher playing a key role in the final outcome.
Having received the ball from Antonio Valencia, the Scotland midfielder broke forward before passing to Rooney on the edge of the penalty area.
Rooney's back-heel to Danny Welbeck saw the ball moved on to Young and the England winger beat Iker Casillas from 12 yards.
Real bounced back quickly though, with the pace and power of Gareth Bale proving too much for the inexperienced Michael Keane, who hauled the Welshman to the ground to concede a 27th minute penalty, from which Bale sent David de Gea the wrong way.
With former Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo watching from the bench in Michigan, Bale claimed centre-stage as Real's leading light and the former Tottenham winger almost put the Spaniard's ahead with an audacious overhead kick four minutes after his penalty.
It was a well-executed effort by Bale but, on this occasion, De Gea was able to react quickly enough to save the shot.
The red-shirted majority inside the stadium were on their feet again on 36 minutes when Young scored his second goal of the game with a curling effort from 20 yards.
Although Rooney attempted to claim the goal, suggesting he had made the slightest of contact with an attempted header, replays showed the goal to be Young's.
Real upped the tempo in the second-half and submitted United to sustained pressure throughout the rest of the game.
Bale saw a free-kick hit a post, while De Gea produced a reflex save to deny Isco as United, with Keane and Tyler Blackett in the back three, battled to hold on.
Ronaldo came on for the final 19 minutes, but it was United who had the last say, with Hernandez heading the ball in at the far post from Shinji Kagawa's cross. (© Daily Telegraph)