|photo by timsamoff||via PhotoRee|
For United fans, it was an all too familiar foe for the penultimate game of the 2012 pre-season tour, with the spectre of the two recent Champions League spankings hanging over yesterday's meeting with Barcelona. Both clubs sent out strong lineups for the game, with names like Messi, Valdes and Puyol wearing the Blaugrana, while United tweaked their starting eleven to include David De Gea for the first time, and showcasing Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic in the central defense. Antonio Valencia started once again at right back, perhaps suggesting a strategy by Sir Alex to get as much firepower as possible into his lineup. To the Ullevi Stadium, in Gothenburg, Sweden, we head for the game details:
o New year, new coach, same philosophy: despite switching from the tutelage of Pep Guardiola to that of their new manager Tito Vilanova, Barcelona yesterday looked much like the Barcelona of old. Playing patient, possession-oriented football, Barcelona tiki-tacked United to death over the early going, and used their high press defense to create several decent first half opportunities on goal.
o A depressing thought for United fans: I wish soon-to-be four time World Player of the Year Lionel Messi was older than 25. Barcelona is going to be very tough to beat for anything while this guy is still around.
o United displayed a willingness to press the ball themselves near the game's half hour mark, creating a significant number of Barcelona turnovers, and leading to the Reds' most sustained possession of the first half. We saw this strategy employed in the early part of last season -- will United go back to it again..?
o These pages have been critical of Anderson at times, but let's give credit where credit's due: the Big Man frustrated Lio Messi while he was on the pitch over the first 45, shadowing the Barcelona wunderkind -- albeit creating a rather round and rotund shadow -- and not allowing the Argentine maestro his customary marauding freedom.
o Wazza's First Half PK could have separated the two sides, but the Englishman's effort was decidedly pre-season in form.
o I found myself wondering why Vida came off after 45 minutes after playing an hour over the weekend. Let's hope it was conservative move in nature by the United coaching staff rather than a sign of something nagging in the Serbian's recovery.
o Vilanova looked like a television game show host on the sideline, with his black-on-black suit nattily setting off a light colored tie. Once again following in the footsteps of his immediate predecessor, it appears as if the clean lines and sartorial splendor of the Barcelona sideline will continue uninterrupted.
o Dimi received a 20 minute runout against the Blaugrana yesterday, belatedly offering a glimpse of what might have been two years ago at Wembley. Unfortunately, what we saw didn;t give much room for hope.
o I loved Nani tripping that bastard Busquets after the latter grabbed his shirt to deny a second half breakaway. My only regret is that the Barcelona man sprung up unhurt after his customary 15 rolls on the turf.
o Another game, another goalless draw. Robin Van Persie where are you?! Seriously, though, I know it's pre-season, and this was Barcelona, but is anyone else the least bit concerned about the lack of scoring this pre-season....?
o From playing Port Vale to suiting up against Barcelona. Think Nick Powell's having a good pre-season...?
o Mike Phelan was correct: United are drawing closer to the Blaugrana -- this time the match went to penalties. Unfortunately for United, Nani and Ashley Young took them, and the end result was all too familiar.
This is farlieonfootie for August 9th.