United edged a close-fought contest with Chelsea thanks to a clean sheet by Ben Foster and Danny Drinkwater's fourth pre-season goal in as many games.
The rival clubs could have been facing each other in Malaysia had the Champions Youth Cup there not been cancelled - instead, they met at the Marston's Arena, Northwich.
With skipper Gary Neville at right-back, United started the first half well, yet found clear chances at a premium. Rafael da Silva - operating on the right - came close with a pot-shot from outside the area, but found Chelsea goalkeeper Searle equal to his effort.
At the other end, Foster was called upon to make a couple of smart saves on his return from injury - most notably a late tip-over from Jacob Mellis' rasping drive.
The England international stopper can reflect on a solid evening's work, and could even claim a partial assist in the winning goal on the hour-mark. Having claimed a loose ball, Foster picked out Kiko Macheda with a superb long ball. The Italian's shot was blocked, but Drinkwater burst onto the rebound and fired a low shot inside the post from 15 yards.
Chelsea could have had a penalty when Jimmy Derbyshire inadvertantly cleared Jeffrey Bruma's header with his hands, but the Reds held on to claim a fifth win in six friendlies. The teams meet again on 26 August in a return match at Chelsea's Cobham training ground.
United: Foster; Neville, Chester, Eckersley, Gray; Rafael, Drinkwater, Gibson, Fabio; Hewson, Macheda.