Barça’s second pre-season game ended in defeat to ex-coach Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United who ran out 3-1 winners in Santa Clara, California today. Wayne Rooney headed United into an early lead before Jesse Lingard made it 2-0 midway through the second half. Rafinha volleyed in a consolation for Barça in the 90th minute but Adnan Januzaj immediately knocked in another at the other end to complete the victory.
Barça are still without the South Americans Messi, Neymar, Alves, Mascherano and Bravo but Luis Enrique put out a strong starting line-up that included six of the starting XI that won the Champions League final against Juventus seven weeks ago. Luis Suárez started as centre-forward supported by Rafinha and Pedro in attack, and Rafinha began brightly, winning a third-minute free-kick which Suárez curled against the post. Rafinha then played a fine through-ball to send Sergi Roberto clear through the inside-right channel but the young midfielder hit his low shot straight at David de Gea.
After surviving these two early scares United took the lead in the eighth minute when Rooney escaped Adriano’s attention to head Young’s corner firmly past Ter Stegen. The goal encouraged United and Barça found it difficult to test De Gea again until a Busquets header from a corner in the 37th minute. Before that Young forced Ter Stegen into a good save in the 28th minute and United had three shots blocked in the Barça area in a worrying flurry three minutes later.
Barça came back at the end of the first half with two more efforts from Suárez. First he turned excellently before sending a left-foot effort that clipped the far post, then after a build-up involving Iniesta and Pedro the Uruguayan forced a shot that brought a stretching low save from De Gea.
Luis Enrique made two substitutions at half-time, bringing on Jordi Masip in place of Ter Stegen and Rakitic came on for Adriano which meant Sergi Roberto switched to right-back. Masip was tested twice early on, making a good stop from Memphis Depay and then an easier one fron Rooney’s curler.
Barça’s best effort came from Rakitic’s free-kick which flew narrowly over before Luis Enrique made a third change, replacing Vermaelen with Mathieu. Luis Suárez was then unlucky to have a goal ruled out for offside before Van Gaal surprised by making all eleven substitutions in the 63rd minute. United’s fresh legs caught Barça looking sluggish and in the 67th minute James Wilson got forward on the left to send in a low cross which Lingard turned in at the far post.
Luis Enrique responded by making five changes, bringing on younsters Bartra, Gumbau, Halilovic, Munir and Sandro. Barça’s lack of luck was demonstrated soon afterwards when Munir’s header from Rakitic’s floated free-kick came out off the far post. Barça continued to press for a goal with Rakitic and Halilovic both denied by the United defence. Eventually in the 90th minute, Sergi Roberto, who put in a good shift at right-back, crossed to the edge of the area and Rafinha volleyed stylishly past keeper Sam Johnstone. The goal counted for little as United went straight up the other end, Januzaj slipped past Bartra and fired low past Masip for United’s third.
The result was worse than the performance and with better luck a draw or even a victory could have been had. Fortunately the result does not matter at this point and there are still very important pieces to be added to the team before the season starts for real. Piqué and Suárez looked the most in-form on this showing though there were encouraging moments from Sergi Roberto and Rafinha.
Finally, apologies for not posting a report for the first pre-season friendly against Los Angeles Galaxy. The game kicked off at 5 am here in Barcelona and despite setting two alarms to get me up I failed to crawl from my bed until 15 minutes into the second half and thus missed Barça’s goals from Luis Suárez and Sergi Roberto. A report seemed pretty pointless so I went back to bed. Barça’s next game is on Tuesday/Wednesday night (2 am in Barcelona) against Chelsea in Washington, I’ll do my best to stay awake.
Barça: Ter Stegen (Masip h/t); Adriano (Rakitic h/t), Piqué (Bartra m69), Vermaelen (Mathieu m61), Alba; Sergi Roberto, Busquets (Gumbau m69), Iniesta (Halilovic m69); Rafinha, Suárez (Sandro m69), Pedro (Munir m69).
Man United: De Gea; Darmian, Jones, Blind, Shaw; Schneiderlin, Carrick, Mata; Memphis, Rooney, Young. – 11 subs made in min 63.
Goals: m8 Rooney 0-1, m67 Lingard 0-2, m90 Rafinha 1-2, m91 Januzaj 1-3