LANDOVER, Maryland – Again, Manchester United let FC Barcelona have most of the ball. But this time, it made Barcelona pay for losing it.
Michael Owen scored on a counterattack in the 76th minute to give Manchester United a 2-1 victory over FC Barcelona on Saturday night.
“Tonight wasn’t a do-or-die situation,” United assistant coach Mick Phelan said. “It was important that the players we put out on the pitch understand what it takes to play against an exceptional team. We have some very good young players out there and proudly conducted themselves to a high standard.”
Nani also scored early for United, which exacted a measure of revenge in a preseason exhibition that doubled as a rematch of Barcelona’s 3-1 victory in last May’s Champions League final.
Thiago tied it for Barcelona in front of 81,807 at FedEx Field, the largest soccer crowd in Washington-area history.
He narrowly missed an equalizer a few minutes earlier after a sublime, chipped pass from Andres Iniesta.
Pedro also forced United goalkeeper David De Gea into a diving stop earlier in the half.
Tom Cleverley set up Owen’s goal, stealing Sergio Busquets’ pass in midfield, streaking toward goal, and then slipping a pass to Owen just in time to keep the forward onside. Owen chipped the ball over Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes, who had rushed out to close the angle.
After a sluggish first half, Barcelona dominated the second until Owen’s goal.
Thiago gave the defending Spanish league champions a deserved tying goal in the 70th minute, blasting a shot into the top right corner from about 23 yards.
Nani put United, last year’s Premier League winners, ahead on a similar goal to Owen’s. Danny Welbeck collected the ball in midfield, charged forward, and then found Nani alone, who drove a low finish past Valdes in the 22nd minute.