Preview: Beating Barcelona is the aim for United prior to the Carabao Cup final; Rashford to dominate again?

Manchester United -v- Barcelona

UEFA Europa League

Old Trafford, Manchester

Thursday 23 February 2023, KO 20:00 GMT

Manchester United welcome Barcelona to the Theatre of Dreams in the UEFA Europa League play off second leg on Thursday evening. It will be a big match under the lights at Old Trafford. Last week at the Camp Nou, it was a 2-2 draw between the two teams with Marcos Alonso opening the scoring, Marcus Rashford equalising, an own goal from Jules Koundé putting United ahead before Raphinha equalised for the home side. It was a good match.

That should make this a good match too. Barcelona have been too good for United for many of the last fixtures between the two clubs but this season, this Barcelona team is something reminiscent of what you could order from Wish compared to the Barcelona of old. United will be seeking to remain the only English club to be fighting in all four competitions this season with the Carabao Cup final just under three days after this match – the first cup final of the season.

Erik ten Hag will have done his job to find a way for United overcoming Barcelona in this match, which is what seems to have been done. The players will also need to ensure they do a good job or doing just that. Marcus Rashford’s form, added to the likes of Jadon Sancho, Bruno Fernandes, Casemiro, Marcel Sabitzer, Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez, not to mention Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Luke Shaw and David De Gea could see United advance.

Manchester United – Form, Goals Scored & Assists

Leicester City 3-0 W, Barcelona 2-2 D, Leeds United 2-0 W, Leeds United 2-2 D, Crystal Palace 2-1 W, Nottingham Forest 2-0 W

Goals: 24 – Marcus Rashford, 7 – Bruno Fernandes, 6 – Anthony Martial, 5 – Antony, Jadon Sancho, 4 – Casemiro, Fred, Own Goal, 3 – Alejandro Garnacho, Cristiano Ronaldo, 2 – Christian Eriksen, Scott McTominay, 1 – Diogo Dalot, Lisandro Martinez, Luke Shaw, Wout Weghorst

Assists: 9 – Christian Eriksen, 8 – Bruno Fernandes, 7 – Marcus Rashford, 5 – Casemiro, 4 – Alejandro Garnacho, Luke Shaw, 3 – Fred, 2 – Diogo Dalot, Anthony Elanga, Anthony Martial, Cristiano Ronaldo, 1 – Antony, Scott McTominay, Facundo Pellistri, Jadon Sancho, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Wout Weghorst

Barcelona – Form, Goals Scored & Assists

Cádiz CF 2-0 W, Manchester United 2-2 D, Villarreal CF 1-0 W, Sevilla FC 3-0 W, Real Betis 2-1 W, Girona FC 1-0 W

Goals: 20 – Robert Lewandowski, 6 – Ousmane Dembélé, Pedri, 5 – Raphinha, Ferran Torres, 4 – Marcos Alonso, Sergi Roberto, 3 – Ansu Fati, Frenkie de Jong, 1 – Jordi Alba, Memphis Depay, Eric García, Gavi, Franck Kessie, Pablo Torre

Assists: 7 – Ousmane Dembélé, Raphinha, 5 – Robert Lewandowski, 4 – Jordi Alba, Alejandro Balde, Jules Koundé, 3 – Ansu Fati, Sergi Roberto, 2 – Gavi, 1 – Ronald Araújo, Sergio Busquets, Andreas Christensen, Frenkie de Jong, Eric García, Franck Kessie, Ferran Torres

Previous Meetings & Connections

United and Barcelona have met 14 times in European competition. United have won three of those meetings, drawn five with Barcelona wining six times. United’s best victory over Barcelona came in the 15 May 1991 in the UEFA Cup Winners Cup final in Rotterdam with United winning 2-1 with Mark Hughes scoring both goals seeing United lift their first European trophy of Sir Alex Ferguson’s career. Paul Scholes scored the winner in the last victory over the Catalans.

United also won back in 1984 in the third round second leg of the Cup Winners Cup with Bryan Robson scoring twice and Frank Stapleton scoring the other goal in a 3-0 victory which saw United through 3-2 on aggregate. United made the Champions League final in both 2009 and 2011 against Barcelona, losing 2-0 and 3-1 respectively. In the 2018/19 season, United and Barcelona met in the quarter final of the Champions League, losing 1-0 and 3-0 respectively.

Mark Hughes, Laurent Blanc, Jordi Cruyff, Henrik Larsson, Gerard Pique, Victor Valdes, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Alexis Sanchez and Memphis Depay have all played for both United and Barcelona during their careers. For me, the most notable players on this list would be Pique, Ibrahimovic, Hughes, Sanchez, Valdes and Larsson based on their brilliant careers in the game. Marc Jurado is a former Barcelona player currently in United’s academy playing at U21 level.

Team News

Donny van de Beek and Christian Eriksen are the only long-term injured players for United at this time. Antony, Anthony Martial and Harry Maguire all missed the victory over Leicester City on Sunday about will be dobts for the second leg with Barcelona. The trio are expected to be back in action in this match at Old Trafford on Thursday evening but we will have to wait and see what Erik ten Hag says about them during the pre-match press conference at noon in Wednesday.

Casemiro has been suspended for the last three Premier League matches after his red card against Crystal Palace but that suspension is over now, even though he was eligible to feature in the two matches against Barcelona. Marcel Sabitzer was also suspended for the clash against Barcelona last week after his yellow cards in the UEFA Champions League whilst playing for Bayern Munich. Scott McTominay also returned for United against Leicester – midfield boosted.

Ousmane Dembélé and Pedri are the only two players currently on the sidelines through injury. Sergio Busquets returned to the bench for Barcelona on Sunday evening in their 2-0 victory over Cádiz CF but he did not make it off the bench – perhaps he is being saved for the clash with United at Old Trafford on Thursday? Ronald Araújo missed Sunday’s match through suspension and Gavi will miss the second leg against United due to suspension. Could United have the upper hand?

Predicted Manchester United Starting XI – 4-2-3-1

De Gea;

Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Martinez, Shaw;

Casemiro, Sabitzer;

Sancho, Fernandes, Rashford;

Weghorst

Predicted Barcelona Starting XI – 4-3-3

Ter Stegen;

Koundé, Aarújo, Alonso, Alba;

De Jong, Busquets, Kessié;

Raphinha, Lewandowski, Fati

Match Prediction

United could have beaten Barcelona at the Camp Nou last Thursday and were 2-1 up in the match before Raphinha equalised. The form of Marcus Rashford will give United a great chance of reaching the round of 16 in the UEFA Europa League this season but it would not be the end of the world if United were knocked out of the competition this season. That said, I would like United to beat Barcelona as it would be great to hear the excuses from their supporters.

United face Newcastle United in the Carabao Cup final at Wembley on Sunday afternoon and would have two full days to recover from this match with Newcastle having a week to prepare. To not play on Thursday’s and Sunday’s for a large part of the season would be good for United but I am sure that Ten Hag and the United players will do their best to remain in this competition, also challenging for the Emirates FA Cup and the Premier League still wide open this season.

United will take the game in their stride and do what they did against Barcelona at the Camp Nou as both teams were evenly matched. This is not a Barcelona side from the years gone by – they are quite an average team but put on a pedestal because the competition in LaLiga is not the greatest, which falsely inflates Tham as a great club – who are in a precarious financial position and now under investigation for cheating – shock horror. I want United to win this.

Manchester United 2-1 Barcelona

Written by John Walker

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I support Manchester United, the greatest English football team to have ever existed. Bruno Fernandes is the latest in a long line of players with great ability to play for the club. I idolised Bryan Robson, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, and Eric Cantona growing up.