Barcelona might have opened the scoring within the first three minutes but Luis Suarez’s freekick ricocheted off the post. David de Gea, starting his first game of the tour, was planted to the spot. Barcelona made a strong start to the match but it was Man United who went in front when Rooney headed in from close range following Ashley Young’s corner.
From then on, United asserted an element of control over their opponents with some nice football. Rooney came close again, as did Ashley Young. It was an impressive period from United but their good work was almost undone when Suarez again hit the post on the turn just before the interval.
Suarez continued to be frustrated after the break, as his neat finish was ruled out for offside. Barcelona were made to rue the missed chances as Lingard made it two for United thanks to good work from Tyler Blackett down the left hand side. It just really wasn’t Barcelona’s day as substitute Munir El Haddadi ended up rattling the post for a third time with a flicked header. They did get a goal back through Rafinha’s fantastic finish, but it was too little too late by then as Januzaj wrapped up the win for United.
The majority of fans might not have expected to see De Gea in a United shirt again given his strong links to Real Madrid but it was good to see him back.
United often had to rely on De Gea to make up for their defensive errors last season and the team stayed true to form against Barcelona, with the Spaniard saving from Sergi Roberto early on following poor positioning from Daley Blind. Overall, it was a good showing from De Gea. The hope for United fans is that it won’t be last time they see him turn out for the club.
Blind’s versatility is a valuable asset for Louis van Gaal and he will undoubtedly be needed to perform in a variety of roles if United are to be successful next season.
However, it is clear for all to see that the Dutchman is not a central defender. United could have quite easily gone behind due to Blind switching off in the first few minutes and he generally struggled. Marcos Rojo will link up with the squad shortly and he should be the first-choice centre-back moving forward, assuming, of course, that Sergio Ramos does not make a move to Old Trafford.
Good first half
United grew into the game as the first half went on and showcased some fine play at times.
Luke Shaw, once again, was a constant threat going forward and he linked up well with Ashley Young. Juan Mata regularly found his teammates with a range of impressive passing and Matteo Darmian looks to be a brilliant addition to the side.
Perhaps the only blot for van Gaal before the break was the performance of Memphis Depay, who had to work hard to make an impact in the no.10 role. However, he did prove to be a dangerous outlet on the counter. It is important not to take too many definitive conclusions from pre-season friendlies but United enjoyed an excellent first period which should fill them with confidence heading into the future.
In Darmian, United finally have a competent right-back. The Italian’s decision-making with and without the ball is first-class and he looks right at home. His attacking play was similarly impressive and he was a good outlet out wide.
Antonio Valencia was a source of frustration more often than not last term and he has increasingly come under fire following some mediocre performances. Van Gaal said earlier this month that Darmian is the second-choice right-back under Valencia but it will be very hard to leave him out on this form.
Blackett, overlapping on the left flank, found his teammate with an intelligent ball into the box and Lingard duly slotted home to double United’s advantage. Arsene Wenger revealed this week that he thought United might be abandoning their youth traditions and the team responded in emphatic style as Januzaj also got in on the act by getting himself on the scoresheet.