A total of 80,162 fans descended on FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland to witness Barcelona take on Manchester United in the International Champions Cup. As expected, both teams had thousands of supporters show up to cheer them on, and the lineups at kickoff did not disappoint. Ernesto Valverde deployed Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez and Neymar in their familiar trident, while José Mourinho opted to start Romelu Lukaku, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford in an unconventional 4–4–2.
Unsurprisingly, much of the chatter around in the parking lot tailgates ahead of kickoff were centered around transfer speculation. Neymar’s ‘imminent’ move to Paris Saint-Germain was eagerly discussed, while United fans assured me they’d have ‘at least one or two’ more signings arriving before August 31. There was also an extremely committed Liverpool fan who proudly carried a sign warning Barcelona that, “Coutinho was not for sale,” as “Liverpool are not a selling club.”
With the exception of the Liverpool fan, more than 80,000 supporters definitely got their money’s worth during the first 45 minutes alone. Paul Pogba came close to breaking the deadlock for United, while Neymar and Messi linked up early and often with the latter hitting the base of the post after a sweeping move. Suárez was next to test De Gea, who had to be at the ready to stop the Uruguayan’s inventive overhead kick.
It was Neymar who broke the deadlock, capitalizing on United’s defensive blunder to side-foot home for the decisive goal of the game. As has become typical, the Barcelona press contingent cheered loudly, clapping and patting each other on the back as if trying to emulate the Blaugrana fans who were thoroughly enjoying themselves. Not to be outdone, the Manchester supporters were soon cheering in full voice, willing their side to equalize.
The immense support was not lost on José Mourinho, who hit the nail on the head when describing the ultimate objective of the International Champions Cup. “For the crowd, the performance was good. I think in preseason it’s important also to play for that. When you come to the United States and you have a stadium with thousands of very enthusiastic fans, this is what they want. They want Messi, they want Neymar, they want Pogba — for the best players to show what they are — and I think it happened.”
Valverde’s assessment of the match was a bit different, and it seemed his mind was on other matters, namely El Clasico Miami this coming weekend, where his side will face Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid. “It’s normal in these games to have a lot of substitutions. Things need to be regulated and we don’t want to have any injuries. But against Real Madrid it’s possible that some players will get more game time [than others].”