Sunday, 31 July 2011

United vs Barcelona Match Review & Highlights

Manchester United concluded their tour of the United States with a hard fought 2-1 victory over European Champions Barcelona in Washington. While the result matters little in the grand scheme of things, it does show that United are not mentally scarred by the Catalan giants' clear superiority.

Both teams were much changed from that fateful night in Wembley back in May. The only survivors for United were Evra, Vidic and Rooney as Sir Alex Ferguson chose to give some of his younger players a game in the build up to the new season. Danny Welbeck was selected up front as partner to Wayne Rooney and Tom Cleverley was given a chance in centre midfield alongside Anderson.

United looked lively in the early exchanges with Welbeck to the fore and the game often resembled an intense Premier League encounter with both sides pressing swiftly when their opponent had the ball. The first real chance came in the 9th minute when Nani crossed to the near post and Rooney could not quite get his foot around the ball and steered the ball wide.

The opening goal came in the 22nd minute when a Barcelona corner broke down and Welbeck emerged with the ball and swept towards the opposition half before releasing the fleet of foot Nani. Initial thoughts were that the Portuguese had made his run a fraction too early but replays showed he was level and he continued towards goal before easing the ball through Valdés' legs to give United the lead.

The rest of the half continued without incident in the main but with both sides passing neatly and with precision. Cleverley and Anderson while looking lightweight on paper were very much heavyweights in terms of performance as they buzzed here, there and everywhere. Nani was a constant threat to the Catalan defence with his trickery and determination whilst still finding time to help out his full back. Welbeck continued his fine pre-season form as he showed once more that this could be a real breakthrough season after such a promising loan spell with Sunderland. To perform against Chicago Fire is one thing but to do so against the European Champions, albeit in a meaningless friendly, augurs well for his future development.

David De Gea had a quiet half in the United goal as the attacking threat of Barcelona failed to materialise. He was, however, neat and tidy with the ball at his feet and claimed any cross that came his way.

The half time break saw Owen, Giggs and Smalling replace Evra, Rooney and Anderson.

Master and pupil in close proximity
The Spanish champions carried greater threat as the second half progressed without forcing De Gea into anything too exceptional. As the half edged toward the mid way point, Evans clipped the ball out to Smalling on the right who controlled the ball expertly before releasing inside to Nani who in turn played in Welbeck on the edge of the area. The Englishman did a great job adjusting his feet and getting the ball in front of him before firing a crisp shot that was parried by Valdés. Nani blazed over from the rebound when well positioned.

When the equaliser came, it was a moment of great beauty. Thiago, not for the first time this summer, unleashed a powerful strike that arrowed its way into the top corner past a motionless De Gea. To be honest it had been coming as United failed to command the second half as they did the first.

It was therefore with some surprise that United re-took the lead in the 76th minute when a Busquets inside pass was intercepted perceptively by Cleverley who strode towards goal before releasing Owen alongside him with the former England international delightfully lifting the ball over the on-rushing Barcelona keeper. To be fair, Owen offered next to nothing in terms of contributing to the general play but there can be no doubt as to his finishing prowess as he has shown on numerous times in pre-season.

The match winner celebrates with the man of the match
Owen had the chance to add the coup de grâce to proceedings when Obertan crossed along the six yard box following a fine run, only for the part time horse trainer to balloon the admittedly bobbling ball, high over the bar with the goal at his mercy.

The reward for victory was a trophy presented to Captain Vidic by renowned netball player Kobe Bryant and United could leave their tour of America in fine fettle ahead of the new season. Next up for the Reds is the Community Shield next Sunday against Manchester City at Wembley where the team will be looking for a modicum of revenge for the FA Cup Semi Final loss back in April at the same venue.

You can see full highlights from the game below:

The photos in this post come courtesy of TriciaRKG and her Tumblr site Come on You Reds!

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