WASHINGTON • Games against star-studded Real Madrid and Barcelona were good preparation for the rigours of the Premier League even as they demonstrated the Spanish giants' superior level, Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho said on Wednesday.
With a goal from Brazilian striker Neymar, Barcelona defeated United 1-0 in the International Champions Cup (ICC), handing the Red Devils the first defeat of their US tour. It came after a penalty shoot-out victory over Real after the teams drew 1-1 in a previous ICC match.
In terms of sheer talent, Mourinho acknowledged that Real and Barcelona have the edge.
"I think at this time, the best players are in these two clubs," the Portuguese said. "Both played with their best teams and it's very, very good for us to measure against them."
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He leaves the US confident that his team have the qualities and fitness needed to thrive in their upcoming campaign.
"It's very important to lose a match in pre-season," Mourinho added. "I think in the game we did some very good things and we did bad things. The very good things are to keep and the bad things are to improve."
He also hinted that Zlatan Ibrahimovic will re-sign for United. The injured Swedish striker is undergoing rehabilitation at United's training base at Carrington even though the club released him from his contract at the end of last month.
Mourinho said that he is banking on the 35-year-old being part of his squad for the second half of next season.
"We spent big money on a striker because, with strikers, you either spend or you don't get," he said, referring to the £75 million (S$133.92 million) signing of Romelu Lukaku. "We spent because of what happened to Zlatan and we cannot allow ourselves to be without an important, strong striker for the first six months of the season."
Negotiations are continuing between United's executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and Ibrahimovic's agent Mino Raiola, and the player has indicated that he wants to sign a short-term contract with the club.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, THE TIMES, LONDON