Manchester United eliminate Barcelona and enter the last 16 of the Europa League

Manchester United came from behind to beat Barcelona 2-1 in the second leg of the Europa League's playoff match at Old Trafford.

Manchester United came from behind to beat Barcelona 2-1 in the second leg of the Europa League's playoff match at Old Trafford.

Image by Karina Setiawan from Pixabay

Yesterday, February 23rd, Manchester United advanced to the last sixteen of the UEFA Europa League after edging past Barcelona 2-1 in the second leg of the Europa League’s playoff held at Old Trafford.

Earlier on February 16th, the first leg of the playoff at Barcelona’s home ground Camp Nou ended in a 2-2 stalemate. As UEFA’s new rule discarded the advantage of away goals, both sides went to the field last night aiming for victory.
Barcelona took the lead in the 18th minute into the game through Robert Lewandowski’s penalty, but goals from Fred and Anthony in the 47th and 73rd minutes respectively, helped United win the match on aggregate (4-3).

Barcelona under Xavi’s guidance sit atop La Liga, but in the European tournaments, their woes continue. After an early exit from the UEFA Champions League, they now failed to qualify for the Europa League’s last sixteen.

Barca started well in yesterday’s match and dominated the Red Devils in the first half, but in the second half, some tactical changes by Man U coach Erik ten Hag gave the United upper hand against their Catalonian counterpart. Fred’s goal from Bruno Fernandes’ pass early in the second half brought back Man U’s confidence. Weghorst’s substitute Anthony beat Barca goalkeeper Ter Stegen in the 73rd minute after receiving the ball from a constructive build-up between Luke Shaw and Fernandes and eventually sealed an exquisite victory for the Red Devils.

The Old Trafford gallery looked seethed last night due to Barca’s tussle with Man Utd over the transfer of Frenkie de Jong at the start of the season. De Jong was also jeered by some of the Man U fans after the game was over. Barca coach Xavi said after the match that some of their minor mistakes in the match turned out to be fatal.
On the other hand, ten Hag labelled the triumph over Barca as one of the biggest achievements of his coaching career. According to him, the victory will also give United a lot of confidence when they go into Sunday’s Capital One Cup final.

Football pundits have acknowledged that United’s recent performances are slowly restoring their fans’ faith in the team. Football analysts believe that United, who have not won the Premier League since 2013 and are suffering from a trophy drought, can make their fans dream of their team again. However, they want to disabuse the partisans of making a comparison between the Fergie era and ten Hag’s tenure as some of the stalwarts started to do so.

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