Ann Arbor — Liverpool forward Sheyi Ojo has played in storied pitches around Europe and will surely play on many more memorable soccer places and in much more important games than the one Saturday at Michigan Stadium.
But given all that, the young player will always recall fondly playing in front of 101,254 fans for a preseason game in late July.
“The atmosphere was amazing,” said Ojo, who scored on a penalty kick in Liverpool’s 4-1 victory over Manchester United. “It was maybe one of the biggest fan bases (attendance) I’ve played in. It was a great atmosphere for me and the team.
“We’re happy we could have put on a good show and get this win.”
This was an exhibition game, nothing really more, but it didn’t seem to matter for the passionate fans of both legendary clubs.
Songs were sung, waves went around The Big House, and the sights and sounds were similar to what one would find in England.
But Manchester United coach Jose Mourinho felt the 100,000-plus fans deserved a better product.
“If I was them, I wouldn’t come,” said Mourinho, who felt both rosters were depleted. “I wouldn’t spend my money to see these teams.”
Mourinho was watching an exhibition game in Nice, France, earlier in the day, and noticed all the empty seats.
“They decided the beach was better than this and decided on the beach,” Mourinho said. “The stadium was empty. These people (in Ann Arbor) showed how much they love their clubs.”
Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp didn’t know much about Ann Arbor or The Big House, other than watching the documentary on the Fab Five.
But Klopp was impressed with the passion — “The atmosphere was outstanding. Already when we arrived it was real nice,” Klopp said — and the city.
“It’s a wonderful area,” Klopp said. “Detroit is improve again (after hard times), and the future is bright.”
How much this International Champions Club tour, with some of the legendary European clubs participating, will help soccer in the United States is yet to be determined.
Klopp feels the potential is there, but the USA’s crowded sports market makes it difficult for young players to gravitate toward soccer.
“Kids have to decide to love the game,” Klopp said. “There are too many different sports that are already famous. This game grew without the USA. If you want to be part of it, you’re very welcome. It’s a nice game. I’ve loved it my whole life.”