Monday, June 17, 2024

Manchester United 2-1 Barcelona (Manchester United win 4-3 agg): What Were The Key Talking Points As Erik Ten Hag’s Side Extend On Their Europa League Adventure?

Tom Dunstan in Editorial, UEFA Europa League 24 Feb 2023

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In what was another Europa League classic on Thursday night, Manchester United booked their last-16 ticket after securing a 2-1 victory against Barcelona in their second-leg showdown

Despite entering the half-time break chasing a 1-0 deficit as Robert Lewandowski’s penalty snuck past David de Gea, Erik ten Hag’s side produced what has become a trademark turnaround on home soil.

Eventually clinching a stellar 4-3 aggregate victory after settling for a 2-2 draw at the Nou Camp last week, it was United’s Brazilian duo who will still most of the headlines.

With Fred and second-half substitute Antony completing ten Hag’s Europa League comeback, the Premier League giants also pilled more pressure onto a Barcelona side who are now enduring another public European struggle.

While Xavi’s side might have only continued on a stellar domestic flurry this season, Barca would have been hugely disappointed by their collapse on foreign soil.

In what was another heavyweight Europa League showdown on Thursday night, we have taken a look at the main talking points from Old Trafford.

Multiple pieces of silverware on the table for United?

Although Manchester United might have been disappointed after settling for a 2-2 draw out in Catalonia last week, ten Hag’s side certainly underlined their Europa League credentials on Thursday night.

Producing another thrilling second-half display at Old Trafford, the former Ajax boss has made it clear that he is desperate to end United’s six-year wait for a piece of silverware.

Not lifting a trophy since their Europa League success under Jose Mourinho back in 2017, there is no doubt that the mood in ten Hag’s camp is at a red-hot high.

Laying down a major European marker here and booking their last-16 ticket in some style, Man United could now have their sights set on making real history in 2023.

Along with being tipped as a leading contender in this year’s Europa League, the Red Devils also picked up some perfect momentum ahead of their trip to Wembley this weekend.

Cruising their way to the final of this season’s EFL Cup after landing a routine 5-0 aggregate victory against Nottingham Forest earlier in the month, ten Hag’s high-flying squad will meet Newcastle on Sunday afternoon.

A goal that kickstarts Antony’s Old Trafford career?

While it might be the red-hot Marcus Rashford who has continued to spearhead Manchester United’s charge since returning from the World Cup break, it was another of ten Hag’s attacking options that will steal most of the headlines here.

Missing out on the first-leg in Spain last week after dealing with an extended knock, it is fair to say that Antony has certainly divided opinion since making a blockbuster Premier League switch last summer.

Eventually forcing his way out of Amsterdam after United agreed to a staggering £82million fee for the Brazil international, Antony has largely struggled to establish himself as a regular starter in ten Hag’s side.

However, offering Thursday’s hosts a real boost after coming off the bench during the half-time break, this was the first goal that the 22-year-old has recorded since United’s 2-0 victory against Charlton on January 10th.

Sending the Old Trafford support into overdrive as the ex-Ajax starlet produced a wonderful whipped finish past Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Antony will be looking to use that strike as a platform to build on.

Welcoming back England international Jadon Sancho earlier in the month following an extended stint away from the spotlight, ten Hag will be hugely excited by the prospect of having last summer’s arrival firing on all cylinders.

Barca’s defensive issues on the European stage

While Barcelona might have continued to gain a string of plaudits from across Spain this season, Xavi’s side once again find themselves at the heart of yet another European nightmare.

Shockingly crashing out of the Champions League last year after failing to book their knockout stage ticket, the Spanish icons have really failed to find any kind of defensive stability while on the European stage.

Holding a commanding eight-point buffer at the top of the La Liga table, it has been Barca’s defensive steel that has been the backbone of their domestic success on either side of the World Cup break.

Remarkably shipping just seven La Liga strikes in their 22 top-flight appearances, Xavi’s stars have failed to replicate a similar level when turning their attention back to European duties.

While Barca might have managed to salvage an action-packed 2-2 draw when they welcome Manchester United to Catalonia for their first-leg meeting last week, they once again showed the same issues that have haunted them on Thursday night.

Although the Spanish heavyweights might be sat in pole position to reclaim their La Liga crown in 2023, Xavi will be bracing himself for more scrutiny back home.

Match Report

Manchester United: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Martinez, Shaw, Casemiro, Fred, Fernandes, Weghorst, Sancho, Rashford

Subs: Antony, Garnachom McTominay

Barcelona: Ter Stegen, Kounde, Araujo, Christensen, Balde, Kessie, Busquets, De Jong, Raphinha, Lewandowski, Roberto

Subs: Torres, Fati, Alonso

Goals: Manchester United: Fred (47′), Antony (72′) – Barcelona: Lewandowski (18′ pen)

Yellow Cards: Manchester United: Fernandes, Garnacho, Casemiro – Barcelona: Busquets, Kessie, Lewandowski

Red Cards: N/A

Referee: Clement Turpin

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Dunstan


Formerly of The Independent, Tom has spent the past six years as one of our senior writers and betting experts. Alongside working with numerous publications from across the globe, Tom also graduated from the University of Falmouth in 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Digital Media.
Spending almost the past decade working in countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada, he has also spent time featuring in sports radio. Tom can be followed on Instagram - @iamtomdunstan

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