Manchester United beats Barcelona, 2-1, in friendly

July 30, 2011|By Steven Goff, The Washington Post

LANDOVER — — The clubs were the same, as were many of the players. The stadium was stuffed with supporters in Manchester United's red and FC Barcelona's claret and blue.

But the trophy was not for winning the European Champions League. Rather, NBA star Kobe Bryant presented a sponsor's trinket to defender Nemanja Vidic to mark United's 2-1 victory in a friendly Saturday before an announced 81,807 at FedEx Field — a record crowd for a soccer match in the Washington area.

The outcome won't soften the disappointment of losing to the Catalan club in the prestigious continental final in May at Wembley Stadium but will provide a dose of gratification heading into the English Premier League season in two weeks.

"We're happy winning the match," United coach Alex Ferguson said. "To be honest, both teams made a lot of changes so it's difficult to gauge the importance of the result."

Michael Owen scored the go-ahead goal in the 76th minute, just six minutes after Thiago struck a wonderful equalizer for Barcelona. Nani had put United ahead midway through the first half.

Typical of Barcelona's style, the Spanish side enjoyed 69 percent of possession but failed to manufacture many quality scoring chances until the final 20 minutes.

"Of course, we want to win, but we played against one of the best teams in the world," Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola said. "They used [their] best qualities — the counterattack — but we played a very good second half."

The preseason match lacked the intensity and focus of a high-stakes affair. Six Barcelona players who started in the Champions League final were in the lineup; Manchester United called on three. The teams combined to make 13 substitutions.

Barcelona was missing all of its South American players who participated in Copa America in July, including the sport's greatest player, Lionel Messi. United was without Mexican forward Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez (concussion).

United, on the last leg of a five-match U.S. tour, enjoyed the better of play in the early stages.

Andres Iniesta, goal-scoring hero of Spain's World Cup championship last year, was in the lineup, but without Xavi Hernandez, his creative partner in central midfield, Barcelona labored to break down United's resistance.

United went ahead in the 22nd minute when Danny Welbeck surged through midfield and sent a through ball to Nani. Nani entered the box, drew Victor Valdes off his line and slipped an 8-yard shot under the keeper.

In the 70th, Thiago provided the equalizer with a stroke of brilliance. Giggs' failed slide allowed Thiago to seize control and slide into space for a 23-yard drive. As if caught in a sudden gust, the ball drifted away from de Gea and settled into the upper right corner.

United answered six minutes later when Tom Cleverely intercepted a lazy ball in midfield and supplied Owen for a breakaway. When Valdes approached, Owen calmly chipped it over him for a 2-1 advantage.

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