Man United fights back to secure Europa League Last 16 spot against Barca
Manchester United bounced back from a slow start at Old Trafford to reach the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 after claiming a 2-1 victory over Barcelona in a play-off second-leg tie on Thursday.
After going down to a Robert Lewandowski 18th-minute penalty, United fought back through Fred’s strike two minutes into the second half and Anthony’s 73rd-minute goal to seal a 4-3 aggregate win.
United almost blew away the good work of two away goals from the 2-2 first-leg draw after allowing the Catalans to go in front.
But they clawed their way back into the contest to eliminate Barcelona and remained on course for a first Europa League title since the 2016/17 season.
United manager Erik Ten Hag made one change from the team that started in the Nou Camp reverse leg, bringing in Lisandro Martinez with Tyrell Malacia dropped to the bench.
Barca coach Xavi included in his line-up Sergi Roberto and Andreas Christensen as the only alterations to the first-leg starting team.
The Spanish visitors then went ahead after Bruno Fernandes pulled Alejandro Balde’s arm and Lewandowski stepped up to beat David de Gea from the penalty spot.
United were always on the back foot in the first half as Barca did a good job of keeping Marcus Rashford out of the game and went for the halftime break with a 3-2 aggregate advantage.
It did not take long for the Premier League giants to draw level after the restart with Fred nicely controlling a pass from Fernandes to fire past Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
That goal appeared to have breathed life into the Red Devils as they seized control of the game and started launching meaningful attacks.
But the Catalans still posed a threat despite United being on top of things and Jules Kounde’s fine header forced De Gea to tip the ball over the bar.
United substitute Antony made life difficult for Barca when he thrust the hosts ahead with a cool shot to completely turn the game around.
Rashford almost put the contest beyond Barca’s reach but side-netted with 12 minutes to go.
Then in a stoppage-time attempt to come back, Lewandowski was denied by a Raphael Varane block.
Pictured above: Bruno Fernandes vs Barcelona
Image source: Manchester United