When the folks at Guinness invited us to join them in Ann Arbor, Michigan for the weekend to drink some beer and watch Manchester United and Real Madrid battle it out at The Big House, we couldn’t decline. After all, how often do you get the opportunity to see two of the biggest soccer clubs in the world compete live, let alone on U.S. soil? For most people, it’s a once in a lifetime experience, and with United absent from this year’s UEFA Champions League, the chances that fans will ever see Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo share the stage again seems pretty unlikely.
So as the resident soccer fan on staff, I flew out to Detroit on Friday to meet up with fellow bloggers from sites like Made Man, Bleacher Report, Inside Hook and World Soccer Talk. After quickly checking into my room at the MGM Grand Hotel, I joined the rest of the group as we boarded a van headed for the home of the Michigan Wolverines to watch Manchester United and Real Madrid’s open training sessions. Both teams appeared to be relaxed but focused on the night leading up to the big game, engaging in the usual fitness drills and rounds of keep-away, while a few of the players even tried their hand at some football of the American variety by tossing the pigskin around with University of Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner.
Of course, it was all just a tease for the real festivities on Saturday, which began with miles of traffic on I-94 as tens of thousands of soccer fans flooded the college town of Ann Arbor for the big game. Thanks to some creative detouring by our driver, we arrived in plenty of time to enjoy a cold pint at the Guinness beer garden, who, as the main sponsors of the International Champions Cup, were allowed to serve alcohol inside the usually “dry” stadium, a rarity for the university and college sports in general.