Man United 2-1 Barcelona (agg: 4-3): Antony takes Red Devils into Europa League round of 16
Thursday, February 23, 2023
Second-half strikes from Fred and substitute Antony earned Manchester United a comeback victory against Barcelona and a place in the UEFA Europa League round of 16.
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Second-half strikes from Fred and Antony sent Manchester United through to the UEFA Europa League round of 16 despite Robert Lewandowski's early penalty for Barcelona.
3': Ter Stegen keeps out Fernandes effort
18': Lewandowski penalty after Balde fouled
47': Fred fires United level
64': De Gea tips Koundé header over
73': Antony curls in clinically
Match in brief: United prevail in Europa League thriller
After a thrilling 2-2 draw in Barcelona a week earlier, the Liga leaders set up more cautiously at Old Trafford, deploying four midfielders behind Raphinha and Robert Lewandowski.
That gameplan could have fallen flat when Bruno Fernandes raced clear in the opening moments, his fierce shot stopped by the legs of the alert Marc-André ter Stegen.
Lewandowski, an isolated figure in the early stages, made no mistake with Barcelona's sole attempt on target of the first half after Fernandes was penalised for a challenge on Alejandro Balde. David de Gea got a hand to his powerful penalty only for the ball to go in off the post.
The second half of the first leg had begun with three goals, and the pattern repeated itself in Manchester with the help of United coach Erik ten Hag's decision to introduce Antony in place of Wout Weghorst at the break.
United re-emerged early and had all the momentum when the action resumed, earning their reward when Marcus Rashford won possession and began a move that culminated in Fred collecting Fernandes' perceptive pass and firing past Ter Stegen.
Barcelona withstood a wave of attacks, then threatened to tip the balance of the tie again when Jules Koundé's angled close-range header was tipped over by De Gea.
Instead it was Antony who had the final say, collecting the ball inside the penalty area to curl a sumptuous first-time finish beyond Ter Stegen's dive. Unseeded United will not be opponents any team would relish in the round of 16 draw on Friday.
Richard Martin, Man United reporter
That second-half turnaround was nothing short of stunning, and against one of the best teams in Europe. Barcelona were utterly at ease in the first half but United made them panic for much of the second. This is not United's first big win of the season – they have also beaten Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool here. But it should make them believe they are capable of achieving truly great things.
Graham Hunter, Barcelona reporter
Xavi's first test when he took over at Barcelona was to make them competitive again. He admits that when he gave the team talk away to Bayern München last season he looked at players who "didn't believe". The sting of how this tie has gone, plus the pain of continuing this season's average of conceding twice per European match across eight games, will last for a while. But his side are now without question competitive again. What a tie this has been.
Erik ten Hag, Man United coach: "It's a brilliant win, when you can beat Barcelona who are eight points ahead in the Liga. A magnificent performance – we'll take it with us for the season and it will give us belief that we can win the big games."
Fred, Man United midfielder: "In the first half, we didn't play how we usually do. But in the second we were much better and scored early, so we had a good talk at half-time with the coach. We changed our mindset and came out very well."
Bruno Fernandes, Man United midfielder: "The belief of the team is always there. The belief of the fans pushes us through difficult moments. We have made great comebacks. It's a great result for us."
Xavi, Barcelona coach: "In the first half we had the game under control and over the whole tie things were very tight, very even. This is a disappointment even though our opponents are probably Europe's most in-form team."
Sergio Busquets, Barcelona midfielder: "We played well in the first half. We had a couple of chances to go 2-0 up. But in the second half, United were much better and the match changed. Even when the scoreline was against us we had opportunities to equalise and we kept on competing. Little details mean that we are out."
Jules Koundé, Barcelona defender: "I'm sorry for our loyal, noisy fans who were here tonight. Like them, our objective was to win the Europa League. We have to go up a level and I'm confident that we'll do that next season. We are a young squad and we'll just need to keep improving."
Paul Scholes, BT Sport
"You can see what it means for the players. We haven't seen that for such a long time. To see the passion that these guys have for Manchester United is just fantastic – especially the reaction to the crowd."
- United have won their last 11 UEFA Europa League two-legged ties.
- The Premier League side have lost only three of their last 20 European matches at Old Trafford, winning 14.
- The Red Devils are unbeaten in their last 13 home matches in the UEFA Europa League knockout phase (W9 D4).
- United have only failed to score in three of their last 41 European matches and have scored two or more goals in 16 of their last 18 matches in all competitions.
- The result brought the visitors' 19-match unbeaten run in all competitions to an end (W15 D4).
- Barcelona have only failed to score in one of their last 19 European matches against English clubs.
Man United: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka (Dalot 67), Varane, Martínez, Shaw; Casemiro, Fred; Bruno Fernandes, Weghorst (Antony 46), Sancho (Garnacho 67); Rashford (McTominay 88)
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Koundé, Ronald Araújo (Alonso 82), Christensen, Balde; De Jong, Sergio Busquets, Kessie; Raphinha (Fati 75), Lewandowski, Sergi Roberto (Torres 70)
United enter the round of 16 draw on 24 February (13:00 CET). Barcelona are eliminated from European competition.