It's a Perfect Ending for Manchester United, 3-1

Times Staff Writer

Manchester United ended its summer tour of the United States on Sunday evening the same way it began it -- with an emphatic victory over a top-class European opponent.

This time it was Spain's Barcelona that was toppled. Coach Frank Rijkaard's team lost, 3-1, in front of 68,396 fans in the first sporting event to be held at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

Barcelona actually had the lead for a while, on a 10th-minute goal by Patrick Kluivert off a cross from the right by Ronaldinho, who last month spurned Manchester's overtures in favor of the Spanish club.

Ronaldinho was booed by United fans every time he touched the ball.

The English champion soon regained the upper hand, however, with Diego Forlan scoring in the 25th and 37th minutes and Ruud Van Nistelrooy scoring his fourth goal of the ChampionsWorld Series in the 85th minute.

During victories over Celtic of Scotland, Club America of Mexico, Juventus of Italy and Barcelona, Manchester United was watched live by 271,488 fans.

American goalkeeper Tim Howard again was solid in his second match for Coach Alex Ferguson's team, signaling that he will strongly challenge 1998 World Cup winner Fabian Barthez to be the starter.

Ferguson had said before the match that he regretted not having been able to sign Ronaldinho, believing the Brazilian would have helped immensely in European Champions League play.

"I felt that if we had got Ronaldinho, we would have had a big chance in Europe," Ferguson told an English tabloid, the News of the World.

"Without him, we can't really do anything different from what we tried last year. He would have given us more options."

United might have even fewer options by the end of this week.

The club is considering a reported $24-million offer from Chelsea for Argentine midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron.

"It [the offer] has not been accepted, it's under review," said Peter Kenyon, Manchester United's chief executive.

Juventus Wins Cup

Italian champion Juventus, humbled, 4-1, by Manchester United in ChampionsWorld Series play last week, rebounded Sunday to edge European champion AC Milan, 5-3 on penalty kicks after a 1-1 tie, in the Italian Super Cup.

The game, played at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., attracted a crowd of 54,128, which watched the teams battle to a scoreless tie in regulation. AC Milan then took the lead in extra time when midfielder Andrea Pirlo scored on a penalty kick after a foul by Alessio Tacchinardi on Massimo Ambrosini.

But Juventus replied almost right away, with French forward David Trezeguet scoring off a rebound to earn the tie and allow Juventus the chance to gain a measure of revenge for its loss in penalty kicks to AC Milan in the 2003 Champions League final in May.

Adu On Target

Ghanaian-born striker Freddy Adu, a 14-year-old starter on the U.S. under-17 national team, scored a second-half hat trick Saturday as Coach John Ellinger's squad beat the under-18 team of Blackburn Rovers, 4-2, in Blackburn, England.

The U.S. team is in final preparation for the FIFA Under-17 World Championship, to be played in Finland on Aug. 13-30.

WUSA

The San Diego Spirit of the Women's United Soccer Assn. (WUSA) moved to within one victory of clinching a place in the playoffs Sunday when it defeated the Carolina Courage, 1-0, at San Diego.

The Spirit got a goal from Julie Fleeting and a shutout by goalkeeper Jenni Branam, the first of her WUSA career, to solidify its hold on the fourth and final playoff spot in the eight-team league.

Owen Is Hungry

Liverpool and England striker Michael Owen, frustrated by the team's failure to win the English Premier League title during his time at Anfield, said this might be the season when Coach Gerard Houllier's team ends a 13-year drought.

"You don't get a million-and-one chances as a manager or a player to do that, and we need to do it quite soon," Owen said on the team's Web site. "Everyone wants this to be the season.

"I've been playing for six to seven years now, and am probably halfway through my career without winning the league. You think it's going to be next year or maybe the one after that, and suddenly the time has gone."

Quick Passes

Ajax Amsterdam won its own tournament for the third year in a row Sunday when it shut out Inter Milan, 3-0, on goals by Steve Pienaar, Rafael van der Vaart and Wamberto. In another tournament match, Galatasaray scored a 2-1 victory over Liverpool, which had Steven Gerrard and Neil Mellor red-carded.... Mexico's Pumas of UNAM got a goal from Francisco Fonseca with five minutes left as it salvaged a 1-1 tie with Osasuna of Spain at the Olympic Stadium in Mexico City. Ricardo Morales scored for Osasuna.

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Times wire services contributed to this report.

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