Manchester United vs. FC Barcelona - Match Analysis

Photo Credit: Manchester United
The excitement of Champions League knockout stages has returned to Old Trafford, but the lack of quality in the final third saw Manchester United fall to FC Barcelona 0-1 in the first leg of the quarter finals. 

The tensions were high for all eight days which United had to prepare in the buildup to this game. Lionel Messi and Barca coming to Old Trafford was going to be the biggest European night that “The Theatre of Dreams” has seen for years, and also a chance for manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to see how the current squad fares against Europe’s elite. 

United started the game off shy, gifting the visitors near 90 percent of ball possession in the opening minutes of the game. Despite conceding early in the 12th minute, Solskjaer’s men didn’t roll over and grew into the game as time went on. 

Barca appeared to take their foot off the gas pedal after going ahead, and United looked to take advantage as they turned up the intensity and caused the visitors problems with their high press and aggression in midfield. 

Credit to United’s defensive midfield duo of Scott McTominay and Fred, who time and time again got stuck in and won the ball back for United, giving the team plenty of opportunities to break with speed and ask questions of the Barcelona back line. 

Unfortunately for the hosts, despite coming into their own over the course of the game, they were not able to find an opening. Every final ball seemed to be a bit over cooked, and numerous crosses from open play and set pieces were going astray, as frustrations grew all over the pitch. 

But United came into this fixture as massive underdogs, yet they managed to make it a cagey affair and didn’t allow Barcelona to create too many chances, keeping Messi relatively quiet. 

The hosts turned this into the kind of game that they would have wanted, and they needed some individual quality to turn the tie in their favour. 

The man with all eyes on him, to provide that bit of brilliance, was Paul Pogba, who was poised to thrive in a game of this magnitude according to the manager’s pre-match press conference.

The Frenchman, just like his teammates, was very quiet in the opening minutes of the game, but gradually grew into the proceedings as things settled down and United gained control. 

Despite that, he wasn’t able to really put his stamp on the game and come up with that moment of magic that United desperately needed in order to get back into the game. 

“The Red Devils” didn’t manage to register a single shot on target on Wednesday night, but the performance overall was not as discouraging.

The hosts didn’t get dominated or played off the pitch like many thought they would have prior to the game. 

The midfield trio for United managed to take relative control of the game, the back line was solid for the most part, with Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof really doing a great job of keeping tabs on Luis Suarez and Messi, besides the moment of magic for the visitor’s goal.

The only thing that was lacking was the production in the creation department, as United failed to do as little as test Marc Andre Ter-Stegen, despite enjoying a lot of the ball in Barcelona’s half. 

One could argue that on another day, United would have gotten a goal or two given how the game played out. And while going to the Nou Camp for the second leg with a one goal deficit again puts United in an uncomfortable position — on paper, the peak of the mountain that is to be climbed in Spain on Tuesday is not as high as the one that was conquered in Paris last month.

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