Before the game starts, the cameras are on the Barcelona team lining up in the tunnel. Rooney then comes through and shakes with old friend Pique, and Barcelona captain Iniesta. De Gea then follows suit and shakes with all of his Spanish comrades at the front of the Barca line.
Van Gaal announced at the start of the game that no subs would be made until the hour mark.
United Starting XI 4-2-3-1
David De Gea
The first half saw the Manchester and Catalan side fight out an even 45 minutes. Both sides had good chances but it was United who just clinched it.
In the 7th minute, Manchester United set up a corner, resulting from Rafinha’s defensive efforts. Young whips a cross that flies just above head height. Rooney nudges his marker forward and takes a step back to then fire and unchallenged header past the Barcelona keeper. 1-0 United.
The battle continued with Barcelona, sometimes unjustly, getting dangerous free kicks. The referee definitely played into the Spanish leagues, dive on contact, style of play. One of the fairer free kicks resulted in a cracking shot from Suarez, bouncing off of the post. The Uruguayan would go on to hit the post again in the second half.
The worst player on the field was Thomas Vermaelen, who was filling in for the absent Javier Mascherano. All of the Belgian’s passes went astray; he completely failed to take part in Barcelona’s play style; keeping possession and working up to the goal. He’d keep trying to loft the ball across the field to Rafinha. The vast majority of the ex-Arsenal passes went out of play, never reaching the desperate winger.
Barcelona kicked off the second half, having brought on Rakitic and swapping their goalie. The Catalan came out swinging, causing Jones to pour out defensive failures; he repeatedly fouled the Barca attack and eventually got a yellow card.
Luis Suarez produced another very dangerous attack on the hour mark. He and Pedro teamed up to round the defence within the box, shoot, and score. But it was ruled to be narrowly offside. Van Gaal then made his 11 substitutions.
United Second XI 4-2-3-1
Luis Antonio Valencia
The new United came flying out of the gate to oust the Barcelona fire that’d been raging since half time. Two minutes after the team switch, Pereira picks up the ball in midfield and plays Wilson up to the box. Wilson lays it up to Blackett. Blackett approaching the touchline drives a ball across the face of goal to a free Lingard near the back post. Lingard places a side footed effort into the back of the net. 2-0 Manchester United.
Barcelona took off their 5 remaining key players at 68 minutes in with: Suarez, Busquetes, Pique, Iniesta and Pedro all being replaced by Barcelona’s young talents. Munir, Halilovic, Bartra, Gumbau and Sandro all took to the field in the blue and red stripes.
The intensity of the Catalan side increased as the game was closing. United under the cosh for many spells but defended well and created some chances of their own. Right at the death, 1 minute of regular time left. A cross is pulled from the right side of United’s box. As the ball floats over, Fellaini watches then turns, only to see a loitering Rafinha connected excellently with the dipping ball. His shot slams to the back of the net. Barcelona bring it back to 2-1.
United take the mandatory centre kick, despite the game basically being over. The ball is given the Lingard near the half way line, who sends a high chip ball over the defence. Januzaj reads it. He brings it down well. The defence manages to swarm him and block his way. But he swivels past and scores. A very well worked goal from a player who’s had a fairly disappointing pre-season and game to that point.
Manchester United beat, a weakened, Barcelona team 3-1. It was a very good overall performance from the Premier League side but the team did show some flaws.
Luke Shaw was way out of his league he did very little of what he does best, attack. He was caught in no man’s land on numerous occasions, needing to require on the defensive awareness on Blind and Young, who covered for him very well.
Phil Jones was got increasingly skittish as his game went on, with him making very few challenges for the ball without them resulting in a foul. Despite the Referee allowing the Barca players to dive without sanction, Jones did make a lot of very poor tackles.
Fellaini has always seemed to be a bit of an odd signing for United, but he did step up in some games last season, netting some goals and eventually passing more to his team mates than the opposition. He looked very out of place in this game. He was regularly found guilty of: ball watching; poor passing; fouling and putting on lazy pressure, where he’d follow an attacker whilst never being close to putting in a challenge.
Fortunately, the rest of the United team played very well, managing to defeat the current Champions League title holders. The starting forward four showed improved chemistry and Daley Blind was exceptional at the back. Darmian also teamed up very well with Mata and Schneiderlin was a rock in front of the defence.
The fixture also highlighted the importance of keeping De Gea. Despite missing the first two matches he looked world class. He kept a clean sheet for 62 minutes against Barcelona and pulled off some great reaction saves. His performance was highlighted by an eccentric catch from a Rafinha cross. The Spaniard leaped like a salmon out of the goal to clamp his hands onto the aerial ball bound for a Barcelona head.
It was a good performance by Manchester United who played well against a weakened, but still strong, Barcelona side. A little bit of luck to keep Suarez from scoring also helped keep the Red Devils on top.
United Best XI of the Day
David De Gea