Manchester United ranks among the world's premier soccer clubs, while the Union still are feeling their way in their inaugural Major League Soccer season.
For one night, on a stage bigger than the one where they are used to performing, the Union held their own for a long stretch before United's depth made the difference.
Gabriel Obertan converted a feed from Danny Welbeck in the 75th minute as United defeated the Union, 1-0, in Wednesday night's "friendly" in front of 44,213 at Lincoln Financial Field.
"I think that the Union played really powerful, aggressive, got to the ball very quickly and made it really difficult for us," said Sir Alex Ferguson, United's team manager. "There were few shots on goal. I think we increased the tempo a little bit in the second half. I think we did a little better then."
It was a game from which both teams can benefit.
"It was a good game for us," Ferguson said. "Very good opponents. I thought they did very well."
Union assistant coach John Hackworth, who guided the team on the field while team manager Peter Nowak was in communication from the press box, had a similar feeling about his team.
"I felt like we showed a little bit of class in there as well - that was good," Hackworth said.
This was the second game of four that United is playing on its North American tour. United, which began its preseason training the first week of July, opened with a 3-1 win over Celtic on July 16 in Toronto.
While it's the preseason for United, the Union have a 4-8-2 MLS record, one game away from the midpoint of their schedule.
The Union had nine regulars in the starting lineup, led by MLS all-star Sebastien Le Toux.
Manchester United didn't have nearly as many regulars in its lineup, but whoever wears the red uniform is talented. Among the starters were midfielders Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, who have combined to make 1,249 appearances in their distinguished careers for United.
And speaking of the red, the Man U. fans, clad in the team's red shirts, were an overwhelming presence in the stadium.
Then again, that shouldn't be a surprise. A study by TNS Sport, now Kantar Sport, estimated United's worldwide fans at 333 million.
In goal, the Union started Brad Knighton, who has yet to appear in a Major League Soccer game this season. Chris Seitz has played every match. Knighton didn't appear rusty during a scoreless first half, especially while making a diving save of a point-blank shot by Welbeck in the 36th minute.
In the first half, the Union looked anything but overmatched. As they have in MLS games, the Union never stopped hustling, going for every loose ball. After taking the first few minutes to get used to the faster pace, the Union started created serious chances.
Flourishing in this setting was 19-year-old Union forward Danny Mwanga, the first overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft.
After a slow start this season, Mwanga has come on strong. Against United, he showed impeccable ball control, quick bursts with the ball, and the ability to unleash a shot quickly. In the first half, he was the Union's most impressive player, taking on defenders effortlessly. He played 61 impressive minutes.
"Coming into the game, you know they are much better players and more experienced, so you have to sometimes step up your level," Mwanga said. "I knew it was going to be really hard, and I was trying to be prepared for it."
In the 11th minute, Mwanga sent a cross to Alejandro Moreno, whose shot from 12 yards out went right at goalie Tomasz Kusczak.
In the 16th minute, Mwanga made a great trap on a long ball, chipped the ball to himself, and hit a bouncing shot over the goal from inside the box.
Still attacking, Eduardo Coudet sent a chip in the 17th minute to Le Toux, who just missed getting his head on the ball.
The Union got the better of the play in the first half and then substituted seven players to begin the second, including goalkeeper Brian Perk.
The Union's last good scoring chance came in the 89th minute when Andrew Jacobson just missed converting a Nick Zimmerman cross.
"It was a great experience," Jacobson said. "It was a thrill to play them."