Howard the saviour as United win all four games on US tour

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The Independent Football

Manchester United completed their four-game tour of the United States with a 3-1 victory - their fourth in succession - over Barcelona here on Sunday night. The match was the first event at the new Lincoln Field (the city's previous stadium, built in 1970, was judged to be an aging relic) and attracted a capacity crowd of 68,396. "If the soccer's good then I'll pay good money to see it," said one fan, local lawyer Michael Conley.

Barça's Patrick Kluivert - initially refused entry to the country thanks to a 1996 conviction for vehicular homicide - became the venue's first goalscorer in the 11th minute. The goal illustrated the class of Ronaldinho, whom United courted for half the summer, when the Brazilian lofted a clever cross that allowed the Dutch striker a clear header.

Kluivert should have scored three minutes earlier when a through-ball by Xavi put him one-on-one with Tim Howard, but the goalkeeper got a hand to his attempt - to the approval of the American crowd and the giant scoreboards, which flashed 'Great Save'.

The same message flashed up several times and one save, from a 58th-minute Xavi free-kick, was out of the top drawer. Cynics have suggested that United bought Howard to raise their profile in the States, but the club's goalkeeping coach, Tony Coton, has been watching him for two years.

"He had a marvellous game and showed great improvement tonight," the United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, said. "He was confident, relaxed and he enjoyed it. We've taken the lad from the States knowing that he's someone who will definitely compete for the No 1 jersey."

After Barça's initial dominance United equalised in the 25th minute, Giggs crossing for a diving Diego Forlan header. They deservedly went 2-1 up when man-of-the-match Forlan finished from close range from a low Nicky Butt cross nine minutes later.

Nine second-half substitutions did not alter the balance of play and one of them, Ruud van Nistelrooy, benefited from two defenders colliding before rounding the Catalans' third-choice keeper Jorquera five minutes from time.

United have told Chelsea to raise their bid or forget about signing Juan Sebastian Veron. Chelsea have until tomorrow night to sign Veron if they are to register him in time to play in this month's Champions' League qualifying round.

Just as United are playing hardball with Chelsea over the Argentinian, so West Ham are showing that they will not let Jermain Defoe leave for Old Trafford. "I need to say very quickly that I would not encourage a move from Manchester United - or any other club," the West Ham manager, Glenn Roeder, said. "I see Jermain Defoe as a very important member of the team this year."

Goals: Kluivert (11) 0-1; Forlan (25) 1-1, (36) 2-1; Van Nistelrooy (85) 3-1.

Manchester United (4-4-2): Howard; Fortune, O'Shea, Ferdinand, P Neville; Fletcher (Bellion, 53), Butt (Richardson, 80), Keane, Scholes; Forlan (Van Nistelrooy, 53), Giggs (Solskjaer, 66). Substitutes not used: Veron, Carroll, Ricardo, Lynch, Pugh.

Barcelona (4-4-2): Valdes (Jorquera, h-t); Puyol, Reiziger, Cocu (Anderson, 69), Lopez; Gerrard, Enrique (Quaresma, h-t), Xavi, Ronaldinho (Overmars, h-t); Kluivert (Dani, h-t) Saviola. Substitutes not used: Ros, Sanchez, Garcia, Iniesta.

Referee: K Stott (US).

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