Manchester United are on their way to the next stage of the Europa League after coming back from a goal down to beat Barcelona 2-1 (4-3 on aggregate).
The first half of this second leg showdown seemed to be in Barcelona’s favour, with the majority of possession and chances falling to them in the opening exchanges. 18 minutes in and the visiting side were given a dubious looking penalty, courtesy of a tug on the arm of Balde from Bruno Fernandes.
Barcelona were awarded a penalty for this pull from Bruno Fernandes on the arm of Alejandro Balde.
Correct call or harsh decision❓
Let us know what you think 💬👇#BBCFootball #UEL #MUNBAR pic.twitter.com/vf4ffNEx6s
— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) February 23, 2023
Robert Lewandowski stepped up to take the spot kick which, after a bit of dancing around, he managed to put in the back of the United net – not without a firm touch from De Gea’s glove either.
David de Gea was 𝒕𝒉𝒊𝒔 close to saving Lewandowski’s penalty pic.twitter.com/HXeI2KlNJL
— B/R Football (@brfootball) February 23, 2023
The rest of the first half continued to unfold in Barcelona’s favour, but Erik ten Hag’s men managed to keep the scoreline at 1-0, leaving the scores 2-3 on aggregate as the half time whistle blew.
Wout Weghorst was taken off for the second half, replaced by Antony. Whereas the first half had been enjoyed by the visiting Barcelona, who were on great form all night, the second saw Manchester United emerge a completely different animal, and it took them just 85 seconds after the whistle blew to bring things level.
United won the ball back in the far corner of Barcelona’s penalty box. Bruno Fernandes’ zipping pass to the feet of Fred was met with an expert touch and lightning finish around ter Stegen. The Manchester support erupted and Old Trafford had a buzz that is becoming all too familiar again when ten Hag’s men start to shift through the gears.
FRED'S Goal it was very nice 👍 pic.twitter.com/cPeDEm0dFV
— Enock Musinguzi (@EnockMusinguzi5) February 23, 2023
If the first half was all Barcelona, the second was United’s. Their equaliser was the catalyst for an electric performance and a Barcelona side that had looked to be in control and having fun in the first half were now shaken and cautious in their approach to the home team.
Tensions boiled over briefly after Bruno Fernandes drove the ball into the stomach of a falling Frenkie de Jong, for which he received a yellow card after the referee had contained the various pushing and shovings going on.
This one is for rejecting us @DeJongFrenkie21 pic.twitter.com/0jw7KfbyuH
— Rikiberry (@ugochukwusy) February 23, 2023
Casemiro be like: me I no want una wahala oo😂😂 pic.twitter.com/OhrGPFBxS8
— Haremu (@Haremu24) February 23, 2023
United’s chief seemingly worked more of his managerial magic just over 20 minutes into the second half. Their first goal had come almost immediately off the back of him changing the shape of their attack via a substitution. Their second came another 6 minutes after ten Hag switched things around again.
Jadon Sancho and Aaron Wan-Bissaka were taken off for Alejandro Garnacho and Diogo Dalot at the 67 minute mark. At 73 minutes, following one of many fast-paced United presses, Antony delivered a wonderful left-footed strike to take the Red Devils to a 2-1 (4-3) lead.
GOAL! ANTONY SCORES 2-1 #mufc pic.twitter.com/riX7wK3qo5
— UtdChronicle (@UtdChronicle) February 23, 2023
The only dampener on the rest of the home side’s night was an injury scare from Marcus Rashford, who fell awkwardly to the ground during a challenge for the ball with around 10 minutes to go. He was replaced by Scott McTominay with 2 minutes of the regulation 90 left to play, more than likely with this Sunday’s EFL Cup Final with Newcastle in mind.
Raphaël Varane saved United from heartache with a clearance off the line in the dying minutes of the game, after a smart pass from Gavi found Robert Lewandowski, who had in turn placed the ball around an incoming De Gea.
Despite Barcelona putting on a strong performance themselves, Erik ten Hag and his Manchester United squad yet again showed just how far they have come and what they are capable of going forwards under his leadership.
Erik ten Hag has as much of an impact as Manchester United players in win vs Barcelona | @samuelluckhurst #mufc https://t.co/hHcnd0FBr3
— Man United News (@ManUtdMEN) February 23, 2023