Manchester United Beat Milan on Penalties in 2018 ICC

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistJuly 26, 2018

Manchester United's Chilean striker Alexis Sanchez (L) scores a goal past AC Milan's goalkeeper from Italy Gianluigi Donnarumma during the International Champions Cup match between Manchester United and AC Milan at the StubHub Center in Carson, California, on July 25, 2018. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP)        (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
ROBYN BECK/Getty Images

Manchester United defeated AC Milan 9-8 on penalties after playing to a 1-1 regulation draw in their International Champions Cup opener Wednesday night at StubHub Center in Carson, California.

United's Alexis Sanchez opened the scoring in the 12th minute. Suso quickly leveled the proceedings at a goal apiece with a smooth strike past Lee Grant.

Following a scoreless second half, Ander Herrera fired home the go-ahead goal in the sudden-death portion of the shootout before Franck Kessie skied Milan's final attempt.


Revitalized Alexis Sanchez Will Be Crucial to United's Title Hopes

Sanchez's January arrival in Manchester was laced with hope that he could provide Jose Mourinho's side with an added injection of goalscoring savvy.

However, his initial run with the Red Devils wasn't exactly prosperous.

Sanchez netted just two goals in his first 12 Premier League appearances with United, and he never looked particularly comfortable following a standout run with Arsenal.

However, United's past two fixtures have offered a glimpse of what could be a promising partnership.

After Mourinho praised Sanchez for his "good physical effort" against the San Jose Earthquakes on Sunday, according to the The Independent, the Chile international came out Wednesday night and made an early statement when he received a smooth feed from Juan Mata and slipped the match's opening goal past Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Sacha Pisani @Sachk0

Alexis Sanchez was impressive against SJ Earthquakes last time out. He now has a goal and nice effort, too. Tidy finish past Donnarumma. #MUFC fans should be excited. #ICC2018

Beyond the early tally, Sanchez played with excellent pace in the attacking third and looked the part of a first-team staple.

James Robson @JamesRobsonMEN

Sanchez outstanding tonight. Looks like his Arsenal days #mufc

Sanchez may have just needed some time to settle in, as Mourinho recently suggested to ESPN FC (h/t Goal).

"I'm not a big fan of the winter market because the players are coming in the middle of the season and it is not easy for them to adapt," the United manager said. "So I think after a few months with us, now to start the season I think it is a perfect moment for him to establish himself as an important player for us."

The past two games, that's been the case.

And if the trend holds, Sanchez may evolve into a piece who could help swing some silverware United's way.


Chris Smalling's Shaky Performances Will Relegate Him to United's Bench

Chris Smalling was in a precarious position entering the Red Devils' North American tour, and things aren't looking much better after Wednesday's outing.

The center back was caught napping on Suso's goal in the 15th minute, and it was the kind of play that no doubt reaffirmed Mourinho's desire to upgrade his back line.

Joe Prince-Wright @JPW_NBCSports

Chris Smalling and Eric Bailly both caught out with one long ball down the middle. Suso with a perfectly timed run and finish, but that’s concerning for Man United. Even with Rojo/Jones to return, clear to see why Jose Mourinho wants a new center back at #MUFC this summer...

Specifically, ESPN FC's Rob Dawson reported Mourinho is eyeing Harry Maguire, Toby Alderweireld and Jerome Boateng as potential late-summer additions who could help fortify his group.

Still, Smalling doesn't sound bothered by the prospect of new arrivals.

"To be fair, I think I'm used to that every year," he said, per Dawson. "This club is always linked to center backs, whether it's the club or agents or whoever, because the best come here.

"But no. I'm happy, and when I'm fit I play, so I just want to carry on from last season, and right now the shirt's mine and I intend to keep it."

To this point, though, the signs haven't been encouraging. And based on Wednesday's performance, it would be hard to fault Mourinho if he started to push for improvements in short order.


What's Next?

The Red Devils have two days off before they clash with Liverpool at the Big House in Ann Arbor, Michigan. AC Milan, meanwhile, will enjoy nearly a week off as it prepares for Tuesday's tilt against Tottenham at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.