The 2014 International Champions Cup has already seen a swathe of high-quality encounters, as eight of Europe's elite clubs face off in the pre-season tournament in the USA and Canada.
Two group winners will contest the competition's much-anticipated final, a showpiece that will provide North American audiences the opportunity to witness the sport's biggest stars in a sure-to-be ecstatic atmosphere.
Here is a look at the current standings, results and upcoming fixtures, as well as a focus on the two sides who are perhaps in most need of a positive tournament:
|July 24||Olympiacos vs. AC Milan||3-0|
|July 26||Manchester United vs. Roma||3-2|
|July 26||Real Madrid vs. Inter Milan||1-1 (2-3 on pens)|
|July 27||AC Milan vs. Manchester City||1-5|
|July 27||Olympiacos vs. Liverpool||0-1|
|July 29||Manchester United vs. Inter Milan||0-0 (5-3 on pens)|
|July 29||Real Madrid vs. Roma||0-1|
|July 30||Liverpool vs. Manchester City||2-2 (3-1 on pens)|
|Aug. 2||Inter Milan vs. Roma||2-0|
|Aug. 2||Olympiacos vs. Manchester City||2-2 (5-4 on pens)|
|Aug. 2||Manchester United vs. Real Madrid||3-1|
|Aug. 2||AC Milan vs. Liverpool||0-2|
|Aug. 4||Manchester United vs. Liverpool||3-1|
Milan Need Momentum
Having finished a lowly eighth in the Italian top flight last season, new Milan boss Filippo Inzaghi faces a difficult start to his tenure with a round of matches against Europe's best.
Top of the new boss' agenda will be returning the Rossoneri's confidence. This is a team who are naturally strong in possession, but often lacking the incision to make a lasting dent in top quality defences.
Mario Balotelli remains key to Milan's hopes, despite his affinity for becoming lazy if possession isn't moved his way. American fans will hope to see the Italian in rampant form after the striker failed to inspire during Italy's ill-fated World Cup run.
Things aren't going to get any easier when the ICC is complete, noted by Daniella Matar of the Associated Press:
So, easy first league matches in charge for Pippo Inzaghi. Just Lazio and Juventus in first 3 matches! #acmilan— Daniella Matar (@DaniellaMatar) July 28, 2014
United Must Establish Confidence
Similar to Inzaghi, Louis van Gaal faces the difficult task of rejuvenating one of Europe's fallen forces. Manchester United suffered a catastrophic plight to seventh place under David Moyes and will be hoping to begin putting the record straight with a successful run in the US.
The incoming Dutchman is famed for his tough training methods and direct approach. As proven at the World Cup, he is the type of manager who regularly influences games with tactical changes during play, whether it's a clever substitution or subtle switch in emphasis.
United have plenty of faltering players within their squad—the likes of Chris Smalling, Tom Cleverley and Ashley Young—all of whom will receive the opportunity to impress. Van Gaal's arrival means a clean slate for all and hopefully the beginning of something special at the Theatre of Dreams.
The hard work begins with a tricky schedule on the other side of the world for United, but strong performances in the USA will stand them in good stead ahead of what is set to be a very challenging Premier League season.