FC Barcelona and Manchester United have become familiar foes over the years. What fans mostly remember are the important matchups, like the 2011 UEFA Champions League final that Barcelona ultimately won. However, in recent years the teams have been facing each other in the preseason in less intense and certainly less scintillating matches.
This summer was no different, as the Spanish and English powerhouses took the field in Sweden. Both teams fielded somewhat strong lineups, but with a few obvious starters omitted. For Barcelona, Valdés, Alves, Puyol, Mascherano, Adriano, Busquets, Roberto, Iniesta, Alexis, Messi and Tello all made the first 11. United began the game with De Gea, Valencia, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra, Nani, Scholes, Anderson, Young, Rooney and Welbeck.
Barcelona dominated the game early. Iniesta, Messi and Tello all had good chances to score but ultimately missed the target. By the 13th minute, a Rooney header was United’s best attempt at a goal. Five minutes later, it was Nani with a shot the sailed just wide of the post.
Iniesta made a nice back pass to Messi in the 23rd minute, but the strike bounced wide. In the 32nd minute, the referee handed out the first yellow card to Scholes for a harsh tackle on Busquets.
Just when the half looked to end in a boring 0-0 draw, the referee called a penalty. Tello brought down Nani in the box and Rooney stepped up to the spot. Unfortunately for the Englishman, Valdés was up to the challenge and saved the spot kick.
At the end of the first half, the score line remained 0-0 and if the equal level of play from both teams continued, a penalty shootout for a (somewhat meaningless) preseason trophy seemed inevitable.
Barcelona head coach Tito Vilanova made an overhaul of the lineup at the start of the second half. Pinto came on for Valdés, Piqué replaced Puyol, Cesc took Iniesta’s place, Afellay switched with Messi, Pedro did the same with Tello and Xavi left his seat on the bench for Roberto. United only made two substitutions, with Vidic and Rooney making way for Carrick and Kagawa.
In the 48th minute, Kagawa proved he was super-sub material when his strike from the edge of the box elicited a magnificent save from backup goalkeeper Pinto. Soon after, Barcelona again made substitutions, this set marked by Alba’s debut for the blaugrana. He came on for Adriano, while Bartra, Montoya and Rafinha replaced Mascherano, Alves and Alexis, respectively.
There was only one player left on the bench and one starter remaining on the field, but that didn’t last for long. Busquets earned a rest and Ilie entered the pitch in his stead. United also followed suit, swapping Welbeck, Anderson and Ferdinand for Berbatov, Powell and Wootton.
With both teams made up largely of bench players for the last few minutes, the 90 minutes wound down to a still goalless draw.
The good news? A penalty shootout.
Nani stepped up first for United and hit the crossbar. The always dependable Xavi took Barcelona’s first kick and sent it to the back of the net, giving his team the lead.
United’s bad luck with penalties emulated that of the English national team when Young had his penalty saved by Pinto. Piqué made the win look easy when he buried his spot kick to seal up the best two out of three penalties.
And with that, not only did Barcelona take the somewhat meaningless preseason trophy from their British rivals, but United also failed to convert any of its three penalties given in the game.
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