Manchester United will need a good result in Spain if they are to reach the last four of the Champions League. The team lost 1-0 by FC Barcelona in the first leg of their quarter-final encounter at Old Trafford.
Luke Shaw’s poor performance after 10 minutes proved decisive. The latter scored an own goal to give Barcelona the edge. Ole Solskjaer opted to line up a back five. He wanted Dalot to draft in and help Luke Shaw deal with Lionel Messi’s attacking skills. But the Barcelona superstar spent little time in one fixed position.
Scott McTominay and Fred shone in Paris in the last round. Ole wanted them again to form the midfield partnership. In fact, there were talks that Barcelona might opt for a safety-first approach. As per several sources, Arturo Vidal would feature as an extra midfield. But the Chilean was among the substitutes. Philippe Coutinho joined Suarez and Messi in attack on his return to England.
It took Barcelona just 10 minutes to start the move that would lead to the opener. It also took the help of VAR. Luis Suarez was mistakenly flagged offside as he headed Messi’s cross-in off the shoulder of Shaw. That effort went down as Shaw own the goal.
Luke Shaw’s evening got even worst inside 20 minutes. He picked up the yellow card for a foul on Messi. And that would rule him out of the second leg. Manchester United responded well to the goal. Smalling’s robust challenge left Messi with a bloody nose. Would you call this deliberate to disrupt Barcelona’s rhythm? It could be.
Barca started the second half in an even more sluggish form. And Old Trafford sensed an opportunity to get back into the game. Ernesto Valverde introduced Vidal and Roberto to try and wrestle back control. His tactical changes proved to be effective. Ole also sent on Anthony Martial to replace the ineffective Romelu Lukaku.
With five minutes to play, Ole brought on Andreas Perreira for Rashford. But he could not make any impact into the game. In the end, the United’s boss suggested that he was happy to be still in the tie. Yet, this was the golden chance! Barcelona could be much more threatening in the return leg.
Expectation in the Next Match
Ole Solskjaer is dreaming of another striking comeback in the Champions League. But he admitted that they cannot afford to squander opportunities. Barcelona did not deliver a superb performance. Yet, they managed to come away from Old Trafford with a 1-0 win.
Ole knows opportunities will be at premium when the teams meet again at the Camp Nou next Tuesday. He remains optimistic that they can upset the odds. Just like when they overturned a two-goal deficit against PSG.
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Ole Solskjaer: “Going to the Nou Camp is going to be a challenge. It would be a greater achievement [than the comeback against PSG]. With the history of Barcelona, they are not used to losing at home, but we can do it, no doubt about it. We know we can carry a goal threat. Whoever is playing up front, we have to provide a bit more ammunition for them.”
Ernesto Valverde: “It was a great header from Luis [Suarez]. He was fighting for every cause. He was getting stuck into the defenders, trying to work really hard. We suffered, they caused us problems in the second half, but we are happy overall with the result.”
- Manchester United lost 3 consecutive home Champions League Knockout games for the first time.
- It was Barcelona’s 4th Champions League victory against Manchester United.
- Barcelona won 5 of their last 7 away games against English opponents in the competition.