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Rafinha scored Barça's only goal of the day at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California. / MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB

Wayne Rooney and Jesse Lingard scored on both sides of halftime to lead Manchester United to a 3–1 victory over FC Barcelona in the International Champions Cup, played before 68,416 fans at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

Rafinha got Barça on the board in the 90th minute with a breathtaking volley but their hopes of drawing level were quickly dashed when United’s Adnan Januzaj reciprocated at the other end a minute later.

First defeat     

The defeat is Barça’s first of the preseason and comes on the heels of an opening game victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy. Following the loss, the Catalans will fly to Washington DC where they’ll face Chelsea in their final game on American soil on Tuesday at 8.00pm ET.

Saturday’s game was played on a gorgeous afternoon for football, with abundant sunshine and a game time temperature of 74ºF/23ºC, made even more pleasant by a light breeze out of the northwest.

Rooney’s goal came in the eighth minute when the England international redirected a corner kick past Barça goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen for a 1–0 lead.

Tough luck       

For FC Barcelona the final result can be chalked up to a melange of factors, with a very solid David De Gea in the Red Devil net and sheer bad luck standing out as the two biggest.

The Catalans hit the post three times in the game with striker Luis Suárez clanging one off the woodwork early on and again in the second half, and midfielder Ivan Rakitic catching the upright 17 minutes from time.

Although Suárez was responsible for the lion’s share of Barça’s offensive chances, their best chance of the game may have come from midfielder Sergi Roberto, who was stoned by De Gea in a one-on-one just five minutes in.

Barça reacted to Rooney’s goal by moving Sergio Busquets up to stabilise the midfield while the forwards pressed further upfield. United adjusted their strategy accordingly and pulled back to defend while keeping an eye on the counterattack.

One of those counters ended with a wild scramble in front of ter Stegen from which Barça were lucky to emerge unscathed. It took a series of last-ditch blocks and tackles to keep United from doubling their lead.

Barça appeared to struggle with the arid playing surface throught the game. Every pivot and slide tackle from players on both teams tore up either a chunk of sod or brought with it a sample of the dusty under soil.

The pace of play was even slower after the break, with both sides beginning to feel the effects of the rising midday temperature and the energy-sapping sun as well.

Wild sight

After 63 minutes, United manager Louis Van Gaal — in a rare sight in international football and as a result of the liberal substitution policy of the International Champions Cup — replaced all 11 players on the pitch. The mass substitution paid off immediately after Jesse Lingard deposited United’s second goal of the afternoon.

FC Barcelona coach Luis Enrique made his largest substitution of the day by bringing on five players of his own all at once just shy of 70 minutes.

A bevy of fresh legs gave a jolt to the final twenty minutes, but there was a dearth of big chances until the two quick strikes from Rafinha and Januzaj added a dash of late drama.

 

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