Despite leading at half-time, Barcelona failed to hold on as Manchester United scored twice in the second half to emerge victorious in the blockbuster Round of 32 Europa League fixture.
1 | Xavi can do better, but he’s worth the trust
While the record isn’t one to envy – only one win in their 15 previous games against top 5 league opposition in European competitions – this was far from an embarrassment. The Blaugrana went toe-to-toe against Erik ten Hag’s United, who are fast emerging as a European powerhouse again. Were it not for a few tactical errors, most notably in not starting the first-choice backline in the first leg, and not being able to manage the game when in front, Barça could well have won this tie. Xavi isn’t perfect yet, but this European defeat is not one of concern, it’s one to take positives from.
2 | Álex Balde is the real deal
The 19-year-old left-back continues to shine, with another encouraging display in a big game. Balde drove forward numerous times with pace and power, proving to be a real nuisance for United. His clever movement resulted in him winning the penalty, ultimately putting Barça in front.
3 | The absence of Pedri and Gavi felt
Barcelona’s wonderkid duo, as expected, were sorely missed. Pedri’s absence took away Barça’s ability to control proceedings after going in front. At the same time, Barça lacked the bite in midfield duels without Gavi, as the likes of Casemiro and Fred thrived.
GSFN | Roddur Mookherjee