WFC: Real Madrid edge Manchester United for title

After three-and-a-half weeks of intense competition in the 2011 Herbalife World Football Challenge, it came down to a goal differential tie-breaker to decide the winner. In the end, it’s none other than storied Spanish giants Real Madrid who added the title to their already bursting trophy case.

Led by stars like Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaká, Mesut Özil, and an arsenal of Spanish internationals like Iker Casillas, Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos, los Merengues tied last year’s EPL champions and Champions League runners-up Manchester United in points (17) and goals in favor (9). However, Real Madrid conceded one less goal, and that proved to be the difference.

The winners

José Mourinho, Cristiano Ronaldo & Co. came to the States with the goal of winning the WFC title from the start.

Real Madrid kicked off their WFC campaign with a 4-1 win over the LA Galaxy and followed that up with a 3-0 victory against Mexican club CD Guadalajara. Looking to finish strong, Madrid ran into a stubborn Philadelphia Union in their final match, but ultimately prevailed 2-1.

With three strong games in their US tour, Real Madrid are primed and ready to challenge Barcelona’s hegemony as Spain’s — and the world’s — best team. And it all starts with a pair of SuperCopa matchups on Aug. 14 and Aug. 17.

The stars of the tournament

Cristiano Ronaldo continued his blazing form from last season. Real Madrid’s star tallied four goals in three games, highlighted by a second-half hat trick against Guadalajara and a spectacular solo effort against the LA Galaxy.

After having a season to forget last year, Manchester City’s Shawn Wright-Phillips came into the WFC with the goal of staking a claim for a starting spot in Roberto Mancini’s squad. The speedy winger did just that, fueling his team to a 2-0 win vs. Club América and a 2-1 comeback victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Quite possibly the most memorable effort, however, is that of 22-year-old Guadalajara forward Marco Fabián de la Mora, who single-handedly defeated Barcelona in Chivas’ final game of the tournament — and with two highlight-reel goals, nonetheless. Down 1-0, Fabián first found the upper 90 with a stunning strike from long distance.

Then, just minutes later, he made the jaws of more than 70,000 fans in Sun Life Stadium drop when he took a cross from Omar Arellano and buried the ball in the net with a stunning flying scissors kick. Guadalajara went on to rout Barcelona 4-1, the biggest loss in the Pep Guardiola era.

MLS teams put up a fight

At first glance, a 0-6 record — including a loss in penalty kicks — screams outmatched. But the Vancouver Whitecaps, LA Galaxy and Philadelphia Union gave their opposition a run for their money.

The Whitecaps, for one, were beating Manchester City 1-0 after Camilo’s deflected shot found the net. It took a headed effort from John Guidetti and then a ridiculous long-ranger from Wright-Phillips in the second half for the Blues to avoid defeat.

Over in LA, the Galaxy also gave Man. City quite a stiff test. The Citizens went up on the score sheet with a PK from Mario Balotelli, but Mike Magee’s sweet diping volley from 25 yards was impossible for Man. City ‘keeper Joe Hart to stop. Tied 1-1 after regulation, it took nine rounds of penalty kicks for the EPL side to come out victorious.

On the East Coast, the Union refused to go out quietly in what was Real Madrid’s final stop on their US tour. José Callejón and Özil cracked open Philly’s goal twice by the 11th minute. Just when it looked as though it would be a rout, the Union found their feet and took it to los Blancos.

Philadelphia finally pulled one back in the 80th minute via Michael Farfan, who caught Madrid backup ‘keeper Tomás Mejías off his line and chipped him for the golazo. Despite a following onslaught, the Union couldn’t convert and Real Madrid left American soil with a perfect 3-0 record.