CenturyLink Field will be a neutral site for an International Champions Cup match Friday, but few fans are expected to be neutral.
That’s because both teams — Manchester United of the English Premier League, and Club America of Liga MX — rarely draw neutral feelings. They are loved or hated — soccer equivalents of the New York Yankees or Dallas Cowboys.
How intense are the emotions they stir?
The mother of former English star and Seattle Sounders FC ambassador Alan Hinton disliked Manchester United enough that it was mentioned in her eulogy. An ocean away, Sounders midfielder Gonzalo Pineda remembers hating Club America even as a child in Mexico City.
The strong emotions — pro and con — spring from success.
Club America has 35 international and domestic titles in its 98-year history, including 16 league championships, and five CONCACAF Champions Cups. They claim the title of Mexico’s greatest club.
Manchester United may go one better: the world’s greatest club, or certainly its most famous. The Red Devils hold a record 20 league titles and are valued by Forbes magazine at more than $3 billion.
The giants meet at 8 p.m. Friday (Fox Sports 1 and ESPN Deportes) as part of ICC North America, which brings together 10 clubs in a points-based competition. However, it also is part of preseason training for both clubs, which makes their lineups unpredictable.
Club America already has played two ICC matches, losing 2-1 at the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday, and winning 2-1 at the San Jose Earthquakes on Tuesday. Man United will be making its first appearance in the 2015 competition.
Here’s more on United from Hinton (response edited for space and clarity): “I played for three good clubs in my career, but I was hoping — it never happened — that Manchester United would come in for me. In my day they had the ‘Busby Babes,’ Matt Busby was the manager, Bobby Charlton, Nobby Stiles, Denis Law, Patty Crerand, fantastic players, and they’ve always been a big-time club.
“But my mother never liked Manchester United. When the vicar eulogized her, he said, ‘Harriet took to her grave her dislike of Manchester United.’ And that is true. And when they lost, she was so happy. But Manchester United has always been the No. 1 dog. They’ve got a worldwide following, they’re always on the TV — the most popular team on the TV here. But not everybody loves Manchester United.”
Here’s more on Club America from Pineda (response also edited): “Club America is one of the biggest teams in Mexico. A lot of titles for them. Right now they’re a pretty good team.
“But that’s the big rival of every team I played for. They have a huge rivalry against Pumas, against Cruz Azul and against Chivas. So they are an antagonist for me. I even hated them a little bit when I was a child. Once I went for tryouts just to join a friend. They watched me play, and then they want me to play for them. I said, ‘No, I’m from Pumas, and I want to play for Pumas.’ It was fun, but it’s kind of a little hate from all the teams I played with.”