Barcelona vs. Manchester United: 6 Things We Learned from Preseason Friendly
Of course, it was just a preseason friendly, and Barca had to win from the shootout after failing to break down the Red Devils in a 0-0 draw.
But win from the spot they did, with Xavi and Gerard Pique scoring as Nani and Ashley Young missed for United, with La Blaugrana winning 2-0 after penalties to claim the "Super Match" trophy—four days after they won the Paris Trophy (beating Paris Saint Germain 4-1 on penalties after a 2-2 draw).
A sellout crowd of over 47,000 at the Ullevi Stadium saw the highly anticipated match, and here are six things we learned from the game in Sweden.
Don't Believe The Hype
The clue's in the score—the 0-0 draw was as boring as it seems and failed to live up to it's billing.
Barcelona dominated possession with their tiki-taka football but had no conviction in the final third, hitting only four shots on target all-time, despite having 61 percent of the ball.
Manchester United were even worse in attack, however. They had some good link-up play in Barca's half but a serious lack of options in and around the penalty area, and they will have to improve on their two shots on-target—even if it was a preseason friendly against the world's best team.
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United Need to Work on Penalties
The Red Devils missed all three of their penalties, something which is sure to be of concern to manager Sir Alex Ferguson ahead of the new season.
Wayne Rooney had a very tame effort saved in the first half, with Nani and Ashley Young's penalties in the shootout being just as poor.
Both Rooney and Young will need to work on their power, while Nani will need to work on his accuracy, and all three will require stronger mental toughness drummed into them by Sir Alex to avoid a costly repeat in the league, cup and European campaigns.
Having three penalties in a game and not scoring one of them is a big problem which needs sorting ASAP.
Barca's Tiki-Taka Spot On
While Barcelona had virtually zero substance in front of goal, one thing that'll please manager Tito Vilanova is the accuracy of their tiki-taka passing.
In defence, midfield and right the way up to the edge of United's penalty area, Barca were a slick, well-drilled passing machine, spreading the ball around beautifully and leaving their opponents chasing shadows.
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And as 22 Barcelona players took to the field with the various substitutions, the manager will be pleased that virtually his whole squad is able to pass the ball around well and retain possession with ease against one of the top teams in the sport.
Shinji Kagawa Will Be a United Star
Shinji Kagawa made an immediate impact after replacing Wayne Rooney at the break.
The Japan international was the clear playmaker after coming on and made his presence felt in more ways than one—providing an option in the box for the wingers and also between the opponent's defensive and midfield lines for the central midfielders.
His movement created space for him and teammates to have some good shots on goal, and all of United's good play came through him, even though the 23-year-old played for only 45 minutes.
Kagawa already looks settled at United, and as Rooney said (via manutd.com):
Shinji's settled quite quickly. He's a talented player, he likes to get on the ball and keep it simple. He's very effective on the ball. It's great to have that sort of player in the team. I'm looking forward to playing with him and I think he'll create a lot of chances for myself and the other forwards. It's exciting to have him in the team.
If he keeps up his preseason form, Kagawa is set for Old Trafford stardom.
Jordi Alba Will Be Brilliant For Barca
Jordi Alba also made a great impact for his team after coming on as a substitute.
The 23-year-old left-back looks as if he could be well worth the €14 million Barca invested in him, with the Spaniard playing like a left-sided Dani Alves.
Like in his performances at Euro 2012 and for Valencia in La Liga last season, Alba was a big attacking threat on the wing against United.
His movement prevented Antonio Valencia from playing right wing-back, while Alba also forced Nani back into some defending, which disrupted United's rhythm going forward.
And if only there were a Barca player in the opposition goal area, the defender could've also had a few assists for his dangerous crosses.
Defensively, he wasn't very tested, but as for almost every Barcelona player, it's all about what he can produce going forward—and along with his good tackling ability, Alba provides a good deal in attack.
United's Defence Will Be Strong
Manchester United will have a very strong defence this season if preseason form is anything to go by.
The defenders themselves might not necessarily be outstanding—though Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic re-kindled their famous partnership—but boss Sir Alex Ferguson has set his team up all preseason with a very disciplined shape, with each player able to second-guess the movements of his opponents (a prime example being Michael Carrick's great tackle to stop Pedro going through on goal).
Against Barcelona, United had their opponents covered, and although at times Barca's quick play and a lack of pace from players like Scholes, Ferdinand and Vidic saw the Spanish create great chances, the Premier League side rarely looked as though they were conceding.
And ahead of the new Premier League campaign, that looks encouraging—especially seeing as they conceded the title last season thanks to a lack of discipline and a weakened defence.
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