Louis van Gaal
Louis van Gaal has challenged his players to earn a spot in his starting lineup for the beginning of the Premier League season. Getty Images

Louis van Gaal will be reunited with Barcelona when he attempts to sharpen Manchester United’s preparations for the new season in a high-profile exhibition match in Santa Clara, Calif., on Saturday. The veteran Dutch coach spent two spells in charge of the Catalan giants, winning two La Liga titles. Now, heading into his second season in the Old Trafford hot seat, he is fully focused on continuing his record of winning a league championship at every club he has coached.

Just two weeks remain before the start of the Premier League campaign, when United will attempt to improve on last term’s fourth-place finish, and Van Gaal has just two matches left, including the meeting with Barcelona, to fine tune his lineup. United have beaten Mexico’s Club América and Major League Soccer outfit the San Jose Earthquakes so far in the International Champions Cup event. In both matches, Van Gaal has started with the same lineup before changing every outfield player at halftime. But the United boss has suggested that will change against Barcelona, with the team selected perhaps offering more than a few clues as to who will start when the team begins their Premier League campaign against Tottenham on August 8.

“We have to improve our shape and, of course, our level and we have different organizations, so we have to play with different organizations,” Van Gaal told MUTV. “Also, we have to improve every level that we have, in all the positions. And, of course, I have to select now already for the third match against Barcelona.

"Now 11 players can play 60 minutes and that’s a big difference, so the next match I will show already what I find from the first two matches because the players have to prove their level on the pitch.”

And United’s lineup, while still missing Ángel di María and Javier “Chciharito” Hernández , may for the first time on their tour of the United States include goalkeeper David de Gea. The Spain international is being strongly pursued by Real Madrid and took no part in the first two matches in the U.S. due to a reported back problem. But he was directed to take part in the warm-up ahead of the 3-1 win over San Jose on Tuesday, and afterward Van Gaal stated that he thought De Gea would be able to play against Barcelona at Levi’s Stadium.

Barcelona’s league campaign begins two weeks later than Manchester United’s, although last season’s success means that before that they will compete in both the European and Spanish Supercups. Winners of a league, cup and Champions League treble last season, Luis Enrique’s team has had just the one match in the U.S. so far, beating the LA Galaxy, 2-1.

Luis Suárez got the opening goal for Barcelona, and, with Lionel Messi and Neymar continuing to recover from their exertions at the Copa America, the Uruguayan will once more to be the lone member of the club’s record-breaking forward trio in action. Together they were crucial to Barcelona taking a clean sweep of honors last term, but, despite so much success, midfielder Sergio Busquets insists the club is determined for more in the coming campaign.

“We have the ambition to continue winning titles because nobody has achieved that yet,” he said in San Francisco, reports Barcelona’s official website. “We want to retain the Champions League, but first we have the Super Cups and the World Club Cup. Let’s see what the season brings -- but we are going after everything.”

Time: 4 p.m. EDT

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