Premier League champions Manchester United enjoyed their most satisfactory pre-season victory yet on Saturday night as they defeated their Champions League Final conquerors Barcelona.
Admittedly, this was the World Football Challenge rather than European football’s biggest prize that they were squabbling over but Sir Alex Ferguson’s selection showed a desire to win and prove that they can beat the best in the world right now.
All three of the Red Devils’ summer signings David de Gea, Phil Jones and Ashley Young started, as did Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra, Nani and Wayne Rooney as goals by Nani and Michael Owen secured a 2-1 triumph.
Barcelona were without Wembley match-winner Lionel Messi and the rest of their South American contingent, though that was also true of their 2-0 success over another European giant Bayern Munich in Germany four days earlier.
Manchester United have lost their last two competitive encounters against Pep Guardiola’s side and despite their spending spree aren’t considered to have closed the gap enough, with Barca 2/1 to retain the Champions League.
Ferguson’s revamped squad are 6/1 by comparison, a price that also leaves them trailing the favourites’ La Liga rivals Real Madrid, who are 5/1, however they will be confident of staking a claim having reached the final four in four of the last five years.
Both clubs are expected to win their domestic leagues in the upcoming campaign, with Manchester United 13/8 to build on their perfect record of five friendly victories in five by earning a 20th title and their fifth in six years.
Barcelona are even more fancied to be crowned Spain’s finest for the fourth season in a row, with odds of 4/9 offered on them finishing first. Real Madrid have been busy in the transfer market but Jose Mourinho’s team remain 13/8 outsiders.