Manchester United travelled to the Camp Nou to face Barcelona in the play-off round of the Europa League.
Ahead of the mouth-watering tie, there was much speculation as to what avenue Erik ten Hag would choose to take, with so many of his first-team stars either injured or suspended.
The United boss started Luke Shaw next to Raphael Varane in Lisandro Martinez’s absence. This meant that Tyrell Malacia was tasked with patrolling the left-flank.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka started ahead of Diogo Dalot. Casemiro was restored to the starting XI in a midfield pair along with Fred.
Marcus Rashford led the line with Wout Weghorst tucked in behind him and Jadon Sancho and Bruno Fernandes on either side of him.
Here are three things we learned from Manchester United’s 2-2 draw against Barcelona.
Erik ten Hag not afraid to experiment
Despite naming a relatively unsurprising starting XI, Ten Hag proved that he has the mettle to experiment and try new things even in big games.
As he did in the latter stages of the second half of the Leeds United game at Elland Road, Ten Hag deployed Weghorst in the number ten position as a playmaker.
This tactic was effective at Elland Road and Ten Hag resorted back to it against the Blaugrana.
Bruno Fernandes predominantly played on the right wing with Rashford in the nine. Sancho was made to ply his trade on the left side of attack.
This alteration in the forward areas by Ten Hag enabled United to fashion a few chances against their Spanish opposition.
Both Rashford and Weghorst had clear-cut chances in the opening 45 minutes that they should have buried and put the team in the driving seat.
Fernandes created a high volume of opportunities from the wing. Sancho also combined well with his teammates.
Even playing Shaw at centre-back in a game of such magnitude was incredible by the Red Devils’ manager, considering the Englishman had to contain the lethal Robert Lewandowski.
Many would have expected Ten Hag to start Dalot, who he has shown a clear preference for, but to inject defensive solidity, the Dutchman named Wan-Bissaka in the side.
Rashford the undisputed main man for United again
In the build-up to the game, much of the talk coming from Spain was about Rashford and the need to neutralize the 25-year-old.
There were even reports of an “Anti-Rashford plan” designed by Xavi and his coaching staff to stop the United academy graduate.
The “Anti-Rashford plan” was ineffective and of no use, if Rashford’s showing against the Catalans is anything to go by.
After going down through a goal from Marcos Alonso, it was Rashford’s goal that brought the Reds Devil and brought them parity on hostile territory.
He got on the end of a superb through ball from Fred before beating Ter Stegen at his near post with a ferocious shot.
Just minutes later, the in-form attacker was at it again for United’s second of the night.
Rashford left Raphinha for dead with a brilliant piece of skill before firing a powerfully driven low-cross inside the box that was put into the back of Ter Stegen’s net by Jules Kounde who could do nothing about the effort.
Rashford made constant runs-in-behind that troubled Xavi’s men. His pace and physicality were a threat against Barcelona who found it difficult to contend with his ability.
Again, Rashford proved why he’s the undisputed main for Ten Hag.
All to play for in the second-leg
The tie is far from over and there’s everything to play for at Old Trafford after the 2-2 draw.
Ten Hag will however be disappointed by the fact that his players did not make some of their chances stick.
The team will be boosted by playing the return fixture at Old Trafford in front of a rapturous home support.
Hopefully, Ten Hag will also have a few players back from injuries. What is certain is that Lisandro Martinez and Sabitzer will be available for selection.
It remains to be seen whether the likes of Anthony Martial, Antony and Scott McTominay will also be back.