Louis van Gaal says Manchester United will be targeting going close to Champions League glory when they return to the competition this season as he prepares to measure his new-look squad’s progress against mighty Barcelona.
More than 93,000 fans are expected at Santa Clara’s Levi’s Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers, on Saturday for a prestige friendly pitting United against the current kings of Europe.
United boss Van Gaal said Friday he had urged his players to use the occasion as an opportunity to gauge themselves against the most successful side in club football over the past decade.
“I have said to the players it is fantastic to play against Barcelona because you already know a little bit if you’re at a certain level, how you to play to win the Champions League,” van Gaal said.
“Our aim is not to win the Champions League but to be close. Of course I know that this is pre-season and we know every well that winning is not the truth; the performance is more important than the result.”
United have often found themselves on the wrong end of Barcelona’s sorcery in Europe over the past decade, losing two Champions League finals to the Catalans in 2009 and 2011.
United captain Wayne Rooney, a veteran of both of those final defeats, welcomes the opportunity to lock horns with the Spanish treble-winners once more.
“Obviously over the last few years they’ve been probably the best team in Europe,” Rooney told reporters.
“It’s down to us to try and prove we’re as good as them. It’s good that tomorrow we’re playing against them and it will show us where we’re at in terms of how we want to play, and how we play against them.”
Saturday’s encounter is the third game of United’s four-match US tour, which culminates next week against Paris Saint-Germain at Chicago’s Soldier Field.
Barcelona meanwhile opened their pre-season US tour on Tuesday, beating Los Angeles Galaxy 2-1 at the Pasadena Rose Bowl.
Barcelona have travelled with a depleted squad missing stars such as Lionel Messi and Neymar, who were excused after playing in the Copa America.