Everything is big when it comes to Manchester United and Real Madrid.
Three years ago, the world football super powers drew a massive sellout crowd of 100,000-plus at Michigan Stadium, aka “The Big House” in the International Champions Cup.
So, expect another big turnout along with a fascinating display of skill at Levi’s Stadium Sunday afternoon when the teams meet again.
Red Devils manager Jose Mourinho will use the world-class contest as a building tool.
“We can’t have better training sessions than playing against the best teams, but more important than the results is the work, the minutes I give to every player,” Mourinho said during Saturday’s pregame press event. “… We are getting our form step by step and (the match) is obviously, you say a test, is the right word, but I prefer to say the experiences, those who didn’t play the last match will play.”
Mourinho will be facing his old club, which is managed by ex-French superstar Zinedine Zidane.
Zidane has felt a “good vibe” in training the past 10 days and can sense that players are anxious to get started.
“We hope for a good game,” he said. “It's the first one and everyone wants to play and get minutes under their belts. It's game one, I hope nobody picks up any knocks, that we play well and I'm not bothered about the result. It's a case of giving it our best and nobody getting injured.”
Always brilliantly skilled, Real last spring won the LaLiga championship and became the first team to win back-to-back Champions League titles.
“Three Champions Leagues in four years is crazy,” captain Sergio Ramos said recently. “Now we must reset and start again at zero, forget about what we have achieved. We cannot live in the past.”
In an ICC model of the Clasico, Real, which brought eight young players for the trip, will renew its storied rivalry with FC Barcelona on July 29 in Miami.
“We've had some very good players move on and some young guys come in,” Zidane said. “We always try to make improvements to the squad. We're happy with the boys who have just arrived. They're excited to be training with us and they know where they've come to. We'll see whether or not we've improved the squad over the course of the season.”
Clearly, the competition between Real and Manchester United is fierce on and off the field.
Mourinho made news on Saturday saying he has ruled out signing Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale this summer.
“It’s clear Bale likes Madrid, likes the challenge and the situation,” Mourinho said of the Wales international. “He is in a very good situation now. … I never felt a desire for him to leave. Why waste time and energy on him like that.”
Mourinho also said goalkeeper David de Gea, a Spanish footballer, will stay and not move to Real.
The Red Devils manager is still interested in landing one or two more additions during the transfer window.
On the trip, Manchester United boasts much-ballyhooed newcomer Romelu Lukaku, who is expected to bring a free-flowing style to Old Trafford this season, along with captain Michael Carrick and Paul Pogba, among others.
Lukaku is off a smashing start after coming from Everton – he scored his second goal in as many matches against Manchester City on Thursday in Houston. But he will face immense pressure next season as he tries to turn those frustrating Red Devils’ draws into wins, off the storied team’s sixth-place EPL finish last season.
His new teammates are impressed as they adjust to the post-Wayne Rooney era.
“He’s a top striker,” said versatile defender Timothy Fosu-Mensah, who was named a starter for Sunday’s match along with Demetri Mitchell and Mateo Darmian.
Mourinho is going to spread out the minutes as he tinkers away. He wants to preserve players who gave 70 minutes against City.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing Mitchell and Fosu-Mensah play,” the manager allowed. “Both are young prospects with bags of potential and Fosu-Mensah is somebody who I think can settle into the first-team squad this season on a regular basis.”
Also participating across the country in the ICC are AS Roma, Juventus, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Tottenham.
Real, which brought eight young players on the trip, and Manchester United will square off again on Aug. 8 in the Super Cup in Macedonia. They open their seasons the weekend of Aug. 11-13.
Madrid also has a two-game Spanish Super Cup series next month against rival Barcelona.
David de Gea showed Real Madrid what they are missing by playing the hero act for Manchester United as they won 2-1 on penalties after a 1-1 International Champions Cup draw in California on Sunday.
The Spain international, a long-time reported target of the Champions League winners, saved spot-kicks from Mateo Kovacic and Oscar before Casemiro hit the crossbar with his shoot-out kick - having scored from 12 yards in normal time - to hand United victory.
United took the lead shortly before half-time thanks to a sensational piece of play from Anthony Martial, the forward jinking away from Dani Carvajal, Luka Modric and Lucas Vazquez to give Jesse Lingard the simplest of finishes at the back post.
Casemiro levelled from the penalty spot after Victor Lindelof could only stop a rampaging Theo Hernandez by crashing into him before the Brazilian missed the decisive penalty in a poor shoot-out.
United remain unbeaten in the four matches they have played on their tour of the United States after holding off Madrid in searing temperatures, while the first pre-season match for Zinedine Zidane's men ended in defeat.
The clubs will soon clash again as Madrid face United in the UEFA Super Cup in Skopje next month.
Lingard was one of two players retained from the United team that beat Manchester City 2-0 on Thursday and he had the first attempt with a shot Keylor Navas had to beat away.
In the stifling Santa Clara heat, the game was played at little more than walking pace, and Lingard bent a 20-yard effort narrowly wide after 40 minutes with Navas well beaten as both teams continued to struggle for attacking momentum at Levi's Stadium.
But in the first minute of stoppage time, a moment of Martial magic provided the opener.
Brilliant skill from the Frenchman saw him cut inside off the left and evade three Madrid defenders before pulling back a precise low cross that Lingard tapped in from close range
Zidane changed his entire XI at the interval while Mourinho made eight substitutions including introducing Romelu Lukaku and Paul Pogba, with Ander Herrera forced off through injury after just five minutes of the second half.
Madrid were handed a glorious chance to level the scores after 68 minutes when a dreadful Lindelof challenge on Hernandez resulted in a penalty.
Casemiro stepped up to smash the spot-kick past De Gea and more penalties were required to find a winner with neither side making a breakthrough after Marouane Fellaini wasted a golden chance with seven minutes to play.
Martial blazed the first kick well over the crossbar before De Gea saved from Kovacic and Kiko Casilla denied Scott McTominay.
De Gea's save from Oscar allowed Henrikh Mkhitaryan to nudge United ahead but Madrid responded through Luismi Quezado before Lindelof hit his kick straight at Casilla and Hernandez scuffed wide.
Daley Blind converted his kick to pile the pressure on Casemiro, with the Brazilian thudding his effort against the bar to continue United's fine run in pre-season.