Manchester United beat Barcelona 2-1 (4-3 on aggregate) at Old Trafford in the UEFA Europa League play off. Barcelona won a penalty with Robert Lewandowski scoring it in the 18th minute of the match. United equalised through Fred at the start of the second half with Antony doubling United’s lead in the 73rd minute. It was a big match for United ahead of the Carabao Cup final at Wembley on Sunday afternoon. What a night.
United started well in the first half with Bruno Fernandes getting a shot on goal in the third minute of the match. Casemiro released the Portuguese midfielder with a diagonal pass, allowing him to break into the penalty area on the right and fire his shot at goal. Marc-André ter Stegen beat the shot away with an outstretched leg. That was a close one for Barcelona but it should have been better from Fernandes. Raphinha had a shot a minute later, missing the target.
It soon started to become a Barcelona-heavy match for United with the Catalan club seeking to get the better of United. In the 16th minute of the match, Barcelona had a penalty after Fernandes fouled Alejandro Balde inside the box. VAR confirmed the penalty. Robert Lewandowski stepped up to take the spot kick with David De Gea diving the right way and getting a hand on the ball, but it heading into the beck of the net. Barcelona were 1-0 up on the night, 3-2 on aggregate.
Fernandes had a shot on goal in the 23rd minute of the match, which was a difficult chance for United’s captain. He met a lofted pass into the penalty area on the right, launching his effort towards the goal. Ter Stegen once again denied him from getting a goal in the match. United had few good chances so far but needed to get it so much better to get back into the game. Barcelona then became parsimonious with possession, upping the tempo and their pressing.
United had another chance on goal in the 36th minute of the match after absorbing the pressure of Barcelona. This time it was Fred with the shot but he missed the target after a volley from inside the penalty area which landed on top of the goal, rather than in the back of the net. Raphinha then had another shot on goal, missing the target again. It would seem that he needed to find his range and just did not seem at the top of his game this evening – which was good for United.
United still seemed out of this match with the minutes grinding down towards the end of the first half. Two minutes were added at the end with all to play for, especially for United. Barcelona maintained control until the end of the half with nothing really happening for either team. Barcelona will go into the break winning this fixture but the second half would be a much better chance for United to grab something from the match. Barcelona led 1-0 at the break.
At the start of the second half Erik ten Hag made his first substitution with Antony replacing Wout Weghorst at the start of the half. The change seemed to start United into life again. Marcus Rashford pinched possession just outside the penalty area and supplied Fernandes with the ball. The Portuguese midfielder found Fred unmarked in the box with the Brazilian thundering his cool, low finish into the back of the net. United were level again 1-1 on the night, 3-3 on aggregate.
United almost had a second goal of the evening a few minutes later with United catching Barcelona out once again. Rashford attempt to pass the ball was blocked with him getting the ball again and launching a strike on goal, but he hit the side of the net. In the 58th minute, United were again on the attack. Fred drove down the wing but was bundled over by Ronald Araújo. There was a squabble after Fernandes hit Frenkie de Jong with the ball in the 59th minute.
Fernandes and Franck Kessie were both booked for the fracas in the 60th minute. In the 64th minute, De Gea made another great save to deny Barcelona. In the 67th minute, Ten Hag made a double substitute with Diogo Dalot and Alejandro Garnacho replacing Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Jadon Sancho. Ferran Torres replaced Sergi Roberto in the 70th minute for Barcelona and Lewandowski was booked a minute later for a foul on Casemiro.
United were in front in the 73rd minute with Antony getting his sixth goal of the season. Luke Shaw back heeled the ball into Garnacho, who was in the box – he struck on goal but it was blocked. Fred then picked up the ball and shot, but was blocked with the ball finding its was to Antony for him to launch a diagonal strike on goal and putting United 2-1 up in the match, 4-3 on aggregate. Ansu Fati replaced Raphinha in the 75th minute of the match to Barcelona.
Garnacho was booked in the 78th minute of the match, which was harsh. In the 82nd minute, Marcos Alonso replaced Ronaldo Aranújo before Sergio Busquets was booked for a foul on Garnacho. Casemiro was booked in the 86th minute with both teams eager to get stuck into the match. It was a fraught end to the match with United 2-1 up on the night, 4-3 on aggregate but Barcelona were trying to get back into the game.
Five minutes were added at the end of the half with United still dominating in terms of the scoreline. Barcelona did get forward a few times but they were thwarted by United time and time again. United eventually went on to win the match with Old Trafford in full celebration. Barcelona deserved what they got and no tears will be spared for them, or their precarious financial situation. It is United who will be in Friday’s draw in the round of 16 in the UEFA Europa League.
David De Gea: United conceded a penalty, which David De Gea dived correctly for, got a hand to it but it was powerful enough to continue going into the back of the net. Had he not slipped, he could have made the save. Casemiro bailed him out after a careless kick, which could have cost United. He did well to keep Jules Kounde’s shot out of his net. He will be pleased with United’s victory over Barcelona, which has been a long time coming. ★★★★★★
Aaron Wan-Bissaka: The English right-back was a force to be reckoned with both in defence and attack. He was productive with Antony during the time both players were on the pitch in the second half, which was great to see. He was replaced by Diogo Dalot in the 67th minute, which ended his evening. He could be in contention to start against Newcastle United in the Carabao Cup final at Wembley on Sunday afternoon? ★★★★★★★
Raphael Varane: The Frenchman was the most composed defender against Barcelona, especially during the first half when United were terrible – the only half they conceded against Barcelona – and that was to a penalty. He will almost certainly be in the starting XI against Newcastle on Sunday. He was injury prone last season but has stuck his foot in and risen to the challenge at United this season, solidifying the defensive line for United. ★★★★★★★★
Lisandro Martinez: He was defensively solid but he was cut out by Barcelona so he could not break the lines with his passing. He found more space in the second half. He and Varane are revelations for United this season and have definitely become the most solid defensive partnership at the club this season. What a signing both players were in respective summer transfer windows. He and Varane should both be starting against Newcastle at Wembley on Sunday. ★★★★★★★
Luke Shaw: Much like United, he offered very little in the first half of the match but something happened to United during the break and they started on the front foot and continued in that stance. He was involved in United’s opening goal with the back heel into Alejandro Garnacho which resulted in he, Fred and Antony attempting to find a goal for United, with the latter finding the back of the net. He was much better in the second half. ★★★★★★★
Casemiro: The Brazilian played Bruno Fernandes in for a great chance in the third minute of the match, which he saw saved by the goalkeeper. He also made two huge blocks just before half time. Hie experience was key for United though. He seemed to be injured by Robert Lewandowski in the second half, but he recovered well. It would be another blow for United to see him out of action again. What a player and what a signing he has been. ★★★★★★★★
Fred: He brought energy to the midfield with his presence and despite a poor first half, he justified his selection with an early equaliser at the start of the second half. He got the better of Barcelona with his running and him getting his fifth goal of the season will do something to show that he does have the talent and ability to provide United with something, when needed. I am sure he will be seeking to get into the starting XI on Sunday now. ★★★★★★★★
Bruno Fernandes: e should have put United 1-0 up in the first three minutes of the match with his shot on goal, but it was saved. Fouled Alejandro Balde which gave Barcelona a penalty, which Robert Lewandowski scored. Got his ninth assist of the season as he played the ball to Fred for United’s equaliser at the start of the second half. He also played a vital part in Antony’s goal which won the match for United. He will be pleased though. ★★★★★★
Wout Weghorst: tarted well for United and he put himself about a bit during the first half but in terms of threat on goal – there was none. I like the player and his work rate is magnificent but with just one goal and one assist so far, it is not going to be all that impressive for him this season. But United seem to do the business with him which is why he has started in the last 11 consecutive matches. Hooked at half time though with Antony coming back from injury. ★★★★
Jadon Sancho: Played in the number ten role in the first half but had no impact at all. He was switched to the flank in the second half and it instantly worked for United. That said, his performance was short-lived in the second half as he was replaced by Alejandro Garnacho in the 67th minute. It is great to have him back but it will take him some time to regain full match fitness and get a grasp on the season again. Could he start on Sunday? ★★★★★
Marcus Rashford: He was greedy on the ball at times, but with the number of goals he has scored this season, who could blame him. He helped to tire out Barcelona, which was great to see. He was unable to scored in this match, ending his run of six goals in his last five matches. He was replaced by Scott McTominay in the last two minutes of the match, pressumably with fatigue taking its toll and him likely to be starting against the Magpies on Sunday. ★★★★★★
Antony: Replaced Weghorst 46′. noted were a different team at the start of the second half and he was the only substitute during the break for Erik ten Hag’s men. His goal in the 73rd minute won the match for United and it was such a great finish for him, disgonally into the far corner of the net. It was his sixth goal of the season with presumably more to come from him this season, now that he is back from some time on the sidelines with an injury. ★★★★★★★★
Diogo Dalot: Replaced Wan-Bissaka 67′. The Portuguese right-back provided a fresh pair of legs for United in both defence and attack. He did well to get into the match and looked hungry to make his mark in the match. It worked well for United as they had the ball in the net six minutes after he came on with United pressing hard against the Catalan club. I expect him to start against Newcastle on Sunday but Aaron Wan-Bissaka will probably play too. ★★★★★★
Alejandro Garnacho: Replaced Sancho 67′. He did well against Barcelona and looked the part with his new trim. Could have got on the scoresheet as Luke Shaw played a back heel to him and he was the first to launch a strike on goal in the 73rd minute, is deflecting off a Barcelona player with Fred then getting a shot before Antony fired into the back of the net. Alejandro Garnacho is a great up and coming player for United to have and he looks the part. ★★★★★★
Scott McTominay: Replaced Rashford 88′. Came on to help protect the lead for United with Barcelona on the attack for the last few minutes of the half and almost all of the time added on. He did what was expected of him. I’m not too sure that he will start against Newcastle on Sunday, or whether he will play at all for that matter. It also looks as if he could be sold in the summer with United seeking better midfielders in the not too distant future. ★★★★★★
Goals: Fred 47′, Antony 73′; Robert Lewandowski 18′ penalty
Assists: Bruno Fernandes 47′
Manchester United: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka (Dalot 67′), Varane, Martinez, Shaw; Casemiro, Fred; Fernandes, Weghorst (Antony 46′), Sancho (Garnacho 67′); Rashford (McTominay 88′)
Substitutes Not Used: Heaton; Lindelof, Maguire, Malacia; Sabitzer, Pellistri, Mainoo; Elanga
Bookings: Bruno Fernandes 60′, Alejandro Garnacho 78′, Casemiro 86′; Franck Kessie 60′, Robert Lewandowski 71′, Sergio Busquets 83′
Written by John Walker