Man United 2-2 Milan (5-4 pens): Dan James the hero in penalty shoot-out victory
CARDIFF, WALES - AUGUST 03: Marcus Rashford of Manchester United celebrates scoring his sides first goal during the 2019 International Champions Cup match between Manchester United and AC Milan at Principality Stadium on August 03, 2019 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Alex Davidson/International Champions Cup via Getty Images)

Manchester United rounded off their pre-season schedule with another victory, their sixth in a row, albeit needing penalties to beat Italian side AC Milan on neutral ground in Cardiff and finish second in the International Champions Cup (ICC).

Playing without star midfielder Paul Pogba, who sat the game out due to injury but whose future at the club remains uncertain, and shorn of the services of Romelu Lukaku, the subject of transfer speculation himself, Marcus Rashford put the Red Devils in front in the first half.

Rashford and Lingard score for Reds

United were pegged back by Suso, who got an equalising goal in the 26th minute, just over ten minutes after Rashford's opener. They suffered a further blow as centre-back Victor Lindelof got his name on the scoresheet at the wrong end with an own goal as the game turned on its head at the hour mark.

But United have been in terrific form in pre-season, and Jesse Lingard ensured that the match would go beyond the 90 minutes with an equaliser eighteen minutes from time, and the deadlock was unbreached for the remainder of the battle.

When it came to penalties, both sides kept their cool in the back and forth routine, with eight flawless penalties between them, the blend of youth and experience in the United ranks working perfectly, as it had for stretches of the regulation time. 

Young players show nerve with penalties

After the nerveless and ultra-talented prospect Angel Gomes added another string to his bow with a top-corner thunderbolt to level the shootout at 4-4, Milan's Daniel Maldini missed what proved to be the decisive ninth kick to put the fate of the match in United hands.

It was left to summer signing Daniel James to smash the ball into the net on his return to Wales, the former Swansea man adding to his growing reputation with the winning penalty at Cardiff's Principality Stadium and capping an impressive pre-season for himself and his club.

This has been a welcome and positive pre-season campaign for United, with the performances on the pitch in contrast to the malaise surrounding the club at the end of last season and the early part of the summer, amid refreshed calls for a change of ownership from the hated Glazers.

There has also been tangible evidence that the gap to City rivals Manchester City on and off the pitch has been growing by the year since Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement in 2013 and a series of botched transfer windows and the mixed fortunes of David Moyes, Louis van Gaal  and  Jose Mourinho at the helm have only added to the uncertainty around the club.

Good pre-season for United

However, with a couple of smart additions to the squad - burgeoning England starlet Aaron Wan-Bissaka from Crystal Palace and lightning-fast attacker James making the move from Swansea - and club legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer entering his first full season as United manager, the gloom has lifted somewhat, and this has been echoed on the pitch.

The game with Milan came too early for Harry Maguire, who is on the verge of a record-breaking £80 million move from Leicester City subject to a medical. Centre-back Maguire is set to become the world's most expensive defender, overtaking Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk who signed from Southampton in 2017 for £75 million and led Jurgen Klopp's side to the Champions League trophy in June.

If the move goes through, Maguire will be joining a United side in a rich vein of form approaching their season opener against Chelsea on 11 August. Solksjaer's team have won all six of their pre-season fixtures, starting with the 2-0 victory against Perth Glory in Australia, and they stayed in Perth to dispatch historic rivals Leeds 4-0 in a showpiece friendly. United also beat Tottenham Hotspur and Milan’s rivals Internazionale on their pre-season tour, as part of the ICC tournament.