Manchester United hosted Barcelona at Old Trafford for the second leg of the Europa League play-off round.
The first encounter between the two sides took place in Spain a week ago and ended in a 2-2 stalemate. It was therefore all to play for at the Theatre of Dreams with a place in the round of 16 on the line.
Erik ten Hag named a similar starting XI as he did at the Camp Nou, with the exception of Lisandro Martinez.
Martinez was restored in the centre-back position next to Raphael Varane. This allowed Luke Shaw to be shifted to the back of the left flank in place of Tyrell Malacia.
Here are three things we learned from Manchester United’s 2-1 victory against Barcelona.
Poor first-half performance
The Red Devils were primarily on the back foot in an opening 45 minutes that saw Barcelona head into the break a goal up.
The Blaugrana took the lead in the eighteenth minute through Robert Lewandowski who converted from the spot.
A questionable call from referee Clement Turpin gave Barca the golden opportunity to take the lead and the Polish striker made no mistake as he powered a shot beyond David de Gea‘s reach.
United were second-best in most aspects of the game. Erik ten Hag’s men failed to fashion any meaningful and clear-cut opportunities against the Spanish giants.
The players seemed to lack the creativity and imagination that characterized their game at the Camp Nou just seven days ago.
Jadon Sancho, who was deployed in the playmaker role, failed to have the creative impact required of a player in his position – In truth, the Englishman was missing throughout the first half.
Weghorst was below-par as United’s central man in attack and it’s no surprise that the Dutchman was substituted off at half-time.
The 30-year-old was poor both in and out of possession and lacked the desired impact during the time he was on the pitch.
The Reds were a shambles in defence and looked all over the place. It was extremely easy for Barcelona to cut through the midfield and mount attacking ventures.
De Gea’s distribution was error prone and deprived his teammates of the chance of putting together meaningful spells of possession.
The Spaniard goalkeeper made a costly mistake when he passed the ball to a Barca player from a goal-kick. Fortunately, the error was not punished.
Antony the difference-maker
Antony’s introduction during the break saw the team put together a more spirited and purposeful second-half performance.
The Brazilian provided much-needed width from the right that allowed United to play more expansively.
Fred’s goal and United’s equalizer came when Antony was on the pitch. A brilliant ball from Fernandes found Fred who fired a shot with his weak right foot beyond Marc Andre ter Stegen.
Antony was a constant threat and got on the scoresheet in the 73rd minute. A shot inside the box from Fred was deflected and found Antony on his favoured left foot.
The Brazilian forward sent the ball into the far-left corner to give United the lead.
Beyond the goal, Antony was immense defensively. He tracked back every time he was required to and provided cover defensively.
On return to action after being away with a muscle injury, Antony gave a good account of himself in a high-pressure game.
United through to the round of 16
United’s victory against Barcelona means the Red Devils are now through to the next round of the competition – the round of 16.
Undoubtedly, United’s win against Barcelona tonight will live long in the memory of most United fans.
The win means that United are still competing in all four competitions.
With the final against Newcastle on the horizon, United’s stars will be buoyed by ther triumph against the La Liga table leaders.