Erik Ten Hag’s Manchester United beat Barcelona 2-1 at the Old Trafford on Thursday night. That sees the Red Devils advance to the round of 16 of the Europa League 4-3 on aggregate.
United came into the game having held the Spanish visitors to a 2-2 draw at the Camp Nou last week. That gave them the advantage as the home team going into the monumental tie.
United had the better of opportunities in the first half of the game but the Blaugrana stepped up ahead of the home side in the 18th minute. Robert Lewandowski found the back of the net from the penalty spot despite David de Gea almost saving the spot kick.
Erik ten Hag turned the game on its head in the second half. He was able to get the desired results from his players thanks to his halftime genius.
It was Fred who found the equalizer for the hosts less than three minutes into the second half. The Brazilian collected Bruno’s pass before placing it in the left bottom corner of Marc-Andre ter Stergen’s net.
Manchester United looked more dangerous and vivacious in the second period. It only took 26 minutes for Antony to put his team in front. The winger fired a left-footed shot beyond the reach of the ter Stegen to give United the lead.
Even though Barcelona were a goal ahead for almost half an hour, the Spanish side never outplayed United. Their passing was all over the place. The Blaugrana lacked coordination in the defensive and midfield areas. Plus, they could not work the ball into the opponent’s area. This effectively hampered the attack, cutting out Lewandowski for a good part of the game.
Pedri and Gavi’s absence: A huge bottleneck for Barcelona
For a greater part of Xavi’s tenure as head coach at Barcelona, a beautiful synergy has been built between the two Spanish prodigies in the center of Barcelona’s gameplay. This collaboration has played out a huge part of the Spaniard tactician’s game plan. Therefore, La Liga’s leaders missed the duo greatly on the pitch last night. It was a huge reason Manchester United prevailed.
Pedri had to step out of the action for Barcelona in the first leg at Camp Nou last week after sustaining a hamstring injury. As a result. was quite inevitable he would be missing the return leg at Old Trafford. Gavi, on the other hand, had to miss the trip to England due to the teenager picking up a third yellow card of the European season at Camp Nou last week.
Barcelona live and breathe, feeding off these two midfield maestros. Without them, it was difficult to put much perspective to a highly pivotal game with the duo’s absence.
What next for Barcelona and Manchester United
The Red Devils host fifth placed Newcastle on Sunday in the final of the EFL Cup. Erik Ten Hag and his boys are on the verge of breaking a six-year trophy-less run for The Red Devils. A victory over The Magpies come Sunday would see them clinch silverware for the first time since 2017.
Having been dumped out of Europe, Barcelona now turns their attention to the domestic league, where they occupy top position. Blaugrana travel to Estadio Mediterráneo on Sunday to take on UD Almeria as they look to shake the disappointment of the Europa league.
Xavi and his men are eight points clear of Madrid at the La Liga summit with sixteen games to play. United then, they should do everything to ensure they bring the league title home for the first time since 2019.