At the Camp Nou, the most powerful poster of the 1/16 final of the Europa League was fully justified, worthy of the Champions League final. The teams put in a real performance and finished with a 2-2 draw, leaving absolutely equal chances for Old Trafford.
Erik ten Hag still couldn’t count on Christian Eriksen and Anthony Martial, so his initial choice wasn’t a surprise. It is not common to see Jadon Sancho in the attacking midfield position, despite the fact that Bruno Fernandes is located on the right flank of the attack. The Portuguese felt really comfortable there. Already at the start of the match, he opened under an instant pass from Casemiro after an interception, but failed to make way for Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Xavi had much more serious personnel problems. Pedri and Gavi (disqualification) added the injured Ousmane Dembele after the first game, so the Catalan mentor had to find a non-insignificant solution or change the 4-3-3 scheme. The latter is impossible in Barcelona, so Sergi Roberto, who we have seen more than once as a right-back, went to the left flank of the attack. This is the universal.
The beginning of the game, I am sure, was to the liking of the English fans. Manchester United entered the game highly motivated and stubbornly rushed towards the Barça defensive line. In the debut, the guests were forced to adapt to high speeds, a hot environment and their own scheme with the ball: left-back Alex Balde went on the attack in positional attacks (Roberto went to the center) and Jules Kunde on the right the third center remained.
Balde has already become one of the central figures of the first half. In one episode, he picked up the ball very well, dragged it down the middle and earned a dangerous free kick, and in another he responded to the serve and earned a penalty. Bruno Fernandes got nervous and stepped on his rival in the corner of the penalty area. Robert Lewandowski from the “point” was ruthless.
In addition to the Spanish defender, Frank Kessier must be praised (he did a great job, having time both in his area and in the other’s), as well as Lisandro Martínez. If there is talent for ball selection, then he has it to the fullest. A couple of episodes with his participation deserve to be included in the selection of the season. Impressively tough guy.
EVEN SANCHO BENEFITS
At half time, ten Hag replaced Wout Wegorst, whose presence at United is basically inexplicable to me. Anthony, who replaced him, went to the right flank, Bruno went to the center, Sancho to the left, and Marcus Rashford, who constantly took the initiative (in the first half, a successful strike in five attempts), moved to the center. of the attack
The changes really confused the guests. Before they could leave the locker room, Sancho came under pressure from the left and helped Brun take possession of the ball. He, with a strong pass through the penalty line, put the ball at the foot of the runner Fred, whose corner kick was irresistible.
So United not only returned the status quo, but also seized the psychological advantage. I am very happy that the teams did not fear each other and did not wait for the final whistle, but rather pushed forward very strongly. Barca, by the way, did not focus on the famous tiki-taki, but often used both long diagonals and passes into the penalty area. True, unsuccessful.
PLEASE MAKE REPLACEMENTS – UP
But Manchester United played their football more efficiently, which was facilitated by the timely replacements of ten Hag. In the course of the second half he released the young Alejandro Garnacho in place of Sancho, and the Argentine intervened in Anthony’s goal, who also came on as a substitute. Of course, this attack was not without Bruno. Luke Shaw, heel on the corner flag, fed the ball back to the Portuguese, who battled Rafinha and rolled into view under Garnacho’s punch. His shot, as well as Fred’s second attempt, were blocked, but Anthony immaculately hit the bounced ball-2: 1.
Generally a lot of fun, as ten Hag runs the game. For example, he noted that Aaron Wan-Bissaka got fed up and missed Balde a couple of times, instead casting a new Diogo Dalot. And Barcelona’s left wing was silent even when Xavi reacted by substituting Roberto for Ferran Torres.
It is also indicative that after the first half the hosts lost 3:4 in shooting, and at 85 they were already 12-6 up. And thanks to the substitutions, they led the game to a well-deserved victory, although in discount Rafael Varane broke up the empty ball after a good shot from Lewandowski.
As a result, Barcelona snapped an 18-match unbeaten streak, flew out of European competition and became an even more obvious favorite for the Spanish championship, which probably won’t make Real Madrid fans so happy. And United make sure they are on the right track. It seems that since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, he has never been so solid, strong and coach. Even under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
European League. 1/16 final. game of return
Manchester United – Barcelona – 2:1 (0:1)
Goals: Lewandowski, 17 – from the penalty spot – 0:1. Fred, 47-1:1. Antony, 73 – 2:1.
Manchester United: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka (Dalot 67), Varane, Fox. Martinez, Shaw, Fred, Casemiro, B. Fernandes, Sancho (Garnacho, 67), Rashford (McTominay, 88), Wegorst (Anthony, 46) .
Barcelona: Ter Stegen, Kunde, Araujo (Marcos Alonso 82), Christensen, Balde, Kessier, Busquets, F. de Jong, Rafinha (Fati 75), Roberto (Ferran Torres 70), Lewandowski.
Yellow cards: B. Fernandes, 60. Kessier, 60. Lewandowski, 71. Garnacho, 78. Busquets, 83. Casemiro, 86.
Referee: Turpin (France).
First game – 2:2