Saturday, 13 April

Man Utd beat Barca to reach Europa League last 16

Sports News
Man Utd players celebrating

Manchester United produced a memorable second-half comeback to reach the Europa League last 16 and knock out Barcelona in the process.

Brazilian duo Fred and Antony, who came on as a half-time substitute, both drilled home low first-time shots in front of an ecstatic Stretford End.

 

It was a victory that looked so unlikely at half-time as Barcelona led thanks to Robert Lewandowski's 18th-minute penalty after Bruno Fernandes' needless foul on Alejandro Balde.

But Antony's arrival for struggling forward Wout Weghost changed the course of the tie as it injected more pace into United's attacks, which the La Liga leaders failed to deal with.

Erik ten Hag's side now move on to Wembley, where they will look to collect their first silverware since 2017 when they face Newcastle in the EFL Cup final.

For Barcelona, it was the first time they have been eliminated from European competition without reaching the last 16 since 1998-1999, which is not quite what president Joan Laporta had in mind when he pulled all those economic levers last year.

It was also Barcelona's first defeat since October and ended an 18-match unbeaten run.

After the match, Ten Hag said: "It was a magnificent night. I think it is brilliant when you can beat Barcelona, eight points ahead of Real Madrid in La Liga and we have seen in this week Real Madrid playing.

"A magnificent performance and we have to take it with us this season that we can win the games."

He added: "I think we have great personalities, starting with David, Rapha, Licha, Casemiro, Bruno, winning types.

"Everyone has a such a strong belief in this team and fight in this team and you can see it with the subs, they are bringing energy and quality and a different dynamic in games. All the subs, not only in this game, did brilliant."

Fred the red menace

Fred has had plenty of detractors since his £47m move to United from Shakhtar Donetsk in 2018.

The chances are if Christian Eriksen had not been ruled out until the end of April through injury, he wouldn't even have started this game.

Yet, as Ten Hag has admitted, anyone capable of playing regularly for Brazil has to be a good player and this was one of those occasions when he proved it.

Fred scores a goal for Manchester United

Fred's goal was an excellent effort as he moved into space on the edge of the area, unseen by Barca's Dutch midfielder Frenkie de Jong, who United spent so long trying to sign in the summer.

When De Jong did come across to pressure his opponent after Fernandes had played a superb through ball, he was too late to prevent Fred drilling home the equaliser.

The goal transformed the contest. Fred then used his energy to break down Barcelona counter attacks, make surging runs that unsettled the visitors and even did the simple passing right, which he quite often gets wrong.

Fred also followed up Alejandro Garnacho in having a shot blocked before a third effort from Antony brought their second goal and allowed United to join Arsenal in the last-16 draw.

Whoever they get, the first leg will be at home on 9 March.

Source: BBC