Now it’s official.
Michigan Stadium has claimed another attendance mark, setting a United States record with an announced crowd of 109,318 watching Manchester United beat Real Madrid, 3-1, in the International Champions Cup on Saturday.
The figure toppled the number set by the 1984 Olympics final, when 101,799 saw France face Brazil at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.
The Big House also holds records for attendance at an NCAA football game (115,109 last fall for Michigan vs. Notre Dame) and at a hockey game (104,173 in the 2010 Big Chill between the Wolverines and Michigan State).
Adding to Saturday’s spectacle, reigning Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo — who was initially ruled out with a leg injury — played for the last 16 minutes, making his first appearance since starring for Portugal in the World Cup.
Despite drawing roars from the crowd, Ronaldo didn’t have any significant contribution, but the game wasn’t lacking in stars. It featured several of soccer’s most well-recognized figures, including Gareth Bale, Wayne Rooney and Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez.
And they didn’t disappoint.
The clubs combined for three goals in the first half, including two by Ashley Young of Manchester United. Bale nearly scored a brace of his own after his 27th-minute penalty, but a spectacular bicycle kick effort was saved by goalkeeper David de Gea.
Hernandez closed the scoring with a powerful header off a seeing-eye cross in the 80th minute, sealing Manchester United’s path to the International Champions Cup final.
But make no mistake: The tournament’s crown jewel was played Saturday at Michigan Stadium.
“It was a fantastic atmosphere,” said Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti, “because (we’re) not used to playing in front of a lot of people like today. … We tried to do our best to give joy to the people. The game, in general, was a good game.”
Though the United States will host the 2016 Copa America and could be in line for an upcoming World Cup, the new attendance mark will stand for the foreseeable future unless more matches are played at the Big House. No other stadium in America lists a capacity over 109,000.
Midway through opening half Saturday, the crowd participated in a rendition of the wave, roaring and rising in unison in a sea of red. And when Ronaldo unexpectedly stepped off the bench to warm up early in the second half, jogging and sprinting back and forth on the narrow sideline, they chanted his name in adoration.
Moments later, soccer’s best player added his name to the list of timeless legends who have competed at Michigan Stadium.
“The atmosphere was fantastic,” said Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal. “I think the game was not a friendly game. I had the feeling that Real Madrid doesn’t want to lose, and that’s why (Ancelotti) started with Ronaldo a little bit earlier than he has said before.”
And though the game had ended an hour earlier, thousands of the record-breaking crowd peered through Big House gates hoping for one last glimpse of Ronaldo, or their favorite star, before their buses departed.
Then the event staff employees scurried with trash bags through the bleachers, the on-field billboards were taken down, and Michigan Stadium began its transformation back to football.