FC Barcelona vs. Manchester United - Match Analysis

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The fairytale is over — individual errors prove costly yet again as Manchester United crash out of the Champions League at the quarter-finals stage after losing 0-3 to FC Barcelona (0-4 agg.)

The same defensive mistakes that have hurt United time and time again this season came back to haunt them again on Tuesday night as Barca pounced, and all but ended the tie in the first half. 

Despite a promising start and a couple of half chances for Marcus Rashford and Scott McTominay early on, the gulf in class was exposed moments later as Lionel Messi converted the first half chance that fell at his feet. 

An unnecessary loss of possession deep inside United’s half by Ashley Young gifted the Argentine the ball on the edge of the box, and you just knew what was coming next. Messi controlled the ball, shook off a desperate tackle from Young, before gliding past Fred and unloading his signature left foot strike into David De Gea’s bottom right corner.

As unstoppable as that finish was, it could have been prevented with a simple clearance prior to United’s skipper losing the ball. 

And just like that, United’s wings were clipped after an encouraging start. The momentum had shifted completely as Barca went on to shut down any hopes of United advancing four minutes later. 

Another scramble in the middle of the park where United struggled to deal with the ball resulted in the ball ending up at Messi’s feet again, running towards goal. You can figure out the rest. 

The deceivingly quick forward began gliding at United’s defence as Phil Jones picked him up outside of the box and attempted to let the Argentine onto his right foot. That’s as textbook as you can hope to defend the footballing wizard that is Messi, who eventually managed to get a shot off with his ‘weaker’ foot anyway. The lack of power in the strike made it seem like it was going to be a routine save for United’s keeper, but a plot twist was to follow.

Routine it was not. United found themselves down 0-2 in the opening 20 minutes, as a rare mistake from De Gea allowed the ball to creep into the net under his arm. 

At that point, it was evident from the United players body language that it was simply going to be damage limitation for the remainder of the game. Any confidence that may have been built up in the opening minutes was shot. 

United failed to create any clear-cut chances yet again, and as the dry spell in front of goal continued for the Reds, former Liverpool star Philippe Coutinho hammered the final nail into United’s progression hopes with a wonderful right footed strike from distance in the 61st minute.

This game was really the story of the recent years for United. Despite managing to be somewhat competitive in a game in which they are lacking significantly in the talent department, United’s mistakes yet again proved to be the cause of their downfall. 

Those individual mistakes just go to show that major reinforcements are needed in order to shore up the gap that is evident between United and the domestic and European elite. 

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