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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Barcelona manager hopes to avoid Manchester United in Champions League: 'I think they are going to be a really hard team to beat'

  • Ernesto Valverde was speaking after seeing his team beat United 1-0 in Washington pre-season friendly courtesy of Neymar strike
  • Manager brushes aside talk Brazilian will leave to sign for Paris Saint-Germain
Barcelona's Neymar, centre, surrounded by Manchester United defenders during the first half of an International Champions Cup match, Wednesday, July 26, 2017, in Landover, Maryland. Patrick Semansky / AP Photo
Barcelona's Neymar, centre, surrounded by Manchester United defenders during the first half of an International Champions Cup match, Wednesday, July 26, 2017, in Landover, Maryland. Patrick Semansky / AP Photo

Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde believes Manchester United are back on the up - and would not want to face them in this year's Uefa Champions League.

Neymar's first-half strike was the difference in the 1-0 International Champions Cup win in Washington, although Barca's first-half display perhaps deserved more.

David de Gea produced a string of fine saves to thwart Barca's ever-impressive attack, although United's overall display and recruitment power makes Valverde wary of Jose Mourinho's resurgent United.

"Obviously it hasn't been well lately, but I mean they won the Europa League," the Barca manager said.

"This year they are going to be in the Champions League. Their presence by itself is impressive. They impress.

"I think they are going to be a really hard team to beat.

"For me, they are contenders to win and they are going to be hard to beat in the Premier League and the Champions League.

"I wouldn't want to face them in the Champions League."

United improved as the match wore on, thanks in no small part to Barca's sweeping half-time changes.

Barcelona's Neymar scored the only goal at FedEx Field. Patrick Semansky / AP Photo
Barcelona's Neymar scored the only goal at FedEx Field. Patrick Semansky / AP Photo

Neymar was among the 10 players taken off at the break, having added to his brace in the pre-season defeat of Juventus.

The Brazil forward has been strongly linked with a move to Paris Saint-Germain, but Valverde brushed aside such talk.

"Neymar was very happy talking to his Manchester United friends outside the locker room just right now," he said. "He is still with us.

"Concerning the game, I am happy with the performance and I am happy that we won against a powerful team such as Manchester United.

"In the first half, I think there was a high rhythm in regards to both teams having chances in both boxes.

"It is clear that even though it is a friendly, both teams wanted to win tonight."

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