Aston Villa eased into the Uefa Cup's final qualifying round at Villa Park yesterday, a day of mixed fortunes on which they signed the goalkeeper Brad Friedel from Blackburn but lost the defender Wilfred Bouma with a dislocated right ankle.
The departure of Bouma after only 15 minutes of Villa's 1-0 victory over Odense BK, after he tangled with Baye Djiby Fall, opened the door for Gareth Barry, who has been out of favour since he upset his manager Martin O'Neill over his desire to move to Liverpool.
The decisive goal came from Ashley Young, whose pace constantly unsettled a resolute Danish side that fielded the former Manchester United player Eric Djemba-Djemba in midfield. He cut in from the left on to Nigel Reo-Coker's pass and struck a rising right-foot shot into the net five minutes after half-time to secure a 3-2 aggregate victory.
Villa saw off a late move by Manchester City to complete the signing of Friedel, 37, from Blackburn on a three-year contract for a fee of about £2.5 million.
Manchester United continued the build-up to their defence of the Premier League title with a comprehensive 4-0 demolition of Kaizer Chiefs in the Vodacom Challenge in Pretoria.
United, who play Portsmouth in Nigeria today, put out a team including some of their younger reserves, but it was Ryan Giggs, in the veteran class these days, who made light of the altitude of Loftus Versfeld to mark his 66-minute outing by thumping in the opening goal from Lee Martin's cross. It was the Chiefs who were left breathless by a slick and efficient United display, in which Wayne Rooney prodded the second under the goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune after the interval.
Tom Cleverley, an 18-year-old from Basingstoke, added the third from Rooney's nod-down and Fraizer Campbell, who scored 15 goals while on loan at Hull for their promotion charge last season, wrapped up the scoring.
Not the least satisfying element for Sir Alex Ferguson was that Rooney, who was targeted by the Chiefs, kept his cool right through to his substitution by Carlos Tevez after 66 minutes.
Chelsea, who opened their tour of Asia with a 4-0 victory over Guangzhou Pharmaceutical, gave Chengdu Blades plenty of headaches in a 7-0 rout in Macau, Joe Cole scoring twice after coming on for the second half. Nicolas Anelka, Salomon Kalou and Frank Lampard had given Chelsea a 3-0 lead at half-time and Shaun Wright-Phillips and the Argentinian Franco Di Santo scored the others.
Chelsea's neighbours Fulham are also in Asia. Fielding their new signings Mark Schwarzer, John Pantsil, Zoltan Gera and Bobby Zamora they came from behind to win 2-1 in South Korea against Ulsan Hyundai. Fulham went 1-0 down after 32 minutes but Jimmy Bullard, a substitute, crossed from the left for Simon Davies to head home before Gera netted the winner.
Dundee United inevitably endured something of a lesson in their friendly match at home to Barcelona, who opened the scoring through Thierry Henry and ran out 5-1 winners after a hat-trick by Lionel Messi.
Less predictably Hull's build-up to their first season in the top flight was rudely interrupted by a 4-0 thrashing at Crewe, where Calvin Zola scored three.
Newcastle slipped to their first defeat of their pre-season preparations when an 87th-minute goal by Doncaster Rovers' Stuart Elliott undid them at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Rangers suffered a blow in the warm-up for their Champions' League campaign when Carlos Cuellar pulled up during their 2-1 victory at Raith Rovers. The Spanish defender was playing his first pre-season game after being troubled by a calf injury but he lasted 29 minutes and will miss the European match against FBK Kaunas at Ibrox.