Manchester United’s remarkable season under Erik ten Hag continued with a statement-making 2-1 win over Barcelona in the second leg of their Europa League Playoff. The Red Devils are through to the last 16 of the European competition and sealed their place in impressive fashion.
However, nervousness crept in during the first half as the Blaugrana were on top of proceedings. They conceded an 18th-minute penalty when Bruno Fernandes left a hand draping on Ansu Fati’s shoulder. The Portuguese attacker was outraged but the spot-kick was awarded. Robert Lewandowski stepped up and scored his first goal at Old Trafford. Red Devils goalkeeper David de Gea got his fingertips to the ball but it flew into the back of the net.
Xavi’s side were dominant in the first 45 minutes and Old Trafford’s loud energy was brought to a halt as Ten Hag’s plan wasn’t going according to plan. The Dutch tactician must have torn into his troops at half-time. They were a different side in the second half playing with the energy and spark that has captivated fans all season long.
It took them until just the 47th minute of the second half to score their equalizer. Fred, who was perhaps man-of-the-match, slotted home from the edge of the box after a neat ball from Fernandes.
Barca had a golden opportunity in the 64th minute when Jules Kounde was left by Jadon Sancho to meet Alejandro Balde’s cross. His header was superbly saved by De Gea, who made up for a glaring mistake in the first half that nearly put the Blaugrana 2-0 up.
Antony was introduced into the fray at half-time for Wout Weghorst. He repaid his manager’s decision with an exquisite finish in the 73rd minute. Old Trafford was raucous after the Brazilian winger guided the ball past Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen to give Manchester United a 2-1 lead.
Xavi looked glum on the sidelines as his team were running out of ideas to get past a resilient United defense. Lewandowski had the best opportunity to equalize in the 90+4th minute. The Polish forward got past Casemiro and sent the ball toward goal, however, Raphael Varane was on hand to clear off the line.
Manchester United marched into the last 16 of the Europa League. They did so by beating the La Liga leaders. Ten Hag’s incredible debut season at Old Trafford continues.
Fans mocked Frenkie de Jong as the Barca man snubbed a move to United last summer but has ended up on the losing side:
“(Manchester United) fans chant: “Frenkie, Frenkie, what is the score? (laughing emoji).”
While another can’t thank Ten Hag enough for turning the Red Devils around:
“TEN HAG I F*****G LOVE YOU KING, YOU’VE CHANGED MY LIFE.”
Here’s how Twitter reacted to Manchester United’s famous win over Barcelona:
Manchester United manager Ten Hag on how his side needed to beat Barcelona
Ten Hag was defiant that Manchester United would have to be at their best to beat Barcelona tonight. The Red Devils drew 2-2 with Barcelona on February 17. The Dutch coach said (via PlanetSport):
“We are sure when you face such big teams as Barcelona you have to play your best otherwise you don’t have a chance. We want to get through, to go to the next round, so, really, tomorrow, really, we have to give the best performance from this season.”
Ten Hag’s side have beaten the Catalan giants for the first time since April 2008. It bodes well for the Red Devils heading into a Carabao Cup final against Newcastle United on Sunday (February 26). Manchester United are firing on all cylinders and Ten Hag is overseeing an incredible campaign.