Barcelona and Manchester United fought to a 2-2 draw in the first leg of their Europa League round of 32 matches at Camp Nou.
Even though United had a 2-1 lead at one point courtesy of another goal from Marcus Rashford, who has already scored 11 goals in 2023 across all competitions, and an own goal by Jules Kounde, the match will be played at Old Trafford next week, and United will be the happier of the two clubs. Following an evenly-matched first half, Barcelona took the lead through Marcos Alonso in the second before United’s comeback. Raphinha’s goal was necessary for Xavi’s squad to tie the game, but they were unable to find a winner during the hectic closing 10 minutes, resulting in a draw.
Well placed for the return leg at Old Trafford
To assess where his squad is at, Man United boss Erik ten Hag stated he was looking forward to facing Barcelona. Having faced the finest club in Spain this season, he would likely have been pleased with most of what he observed. Barcelona leads LaLiga by eight points and is yet to lose at Camp Nou this season, although United kept pace with Xavi’s team for significant stretches of the game.
The tie is poised for a rematch at Old Trafford next week after a tight first half and a frantic second period that featured all four goals. After falling 1-0, United came back to lead 2-1 before Barcelona drew even. The visitors then relied on a series of heroic saves from David de Gea to keep the score even going into the second leg.
Although Ten Hag’s reconstruction isn’t quite complete, he has already presided over victories against Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham, and Tottenham Hotspur as well as a respectable draw against the club that will likely win Spain’s championship. Because of the quality of the two teams and the end-to-end intensity of the second half, the game had the feel of a Champions League knockout match, and both teams will hope that’s the case if they play each other again in the next campaign. Yet, the Europa League version wasn’t all that horrible either.
Several people were surprised when Ten Hag said that Rashford could compete with Paris Saint-Germain sensation Kylian Mbappe during the World Cup break. Still, ever since his return from Qatar, Rashford has been determined to prove his manager correct. Rashford has not only scored 14 goals in 16 games since the season restarted, but his goal against Barcelona demonstrated once more that he can score in crucial contests after scoring this year against Liverpool, Arsenal, and Manchester City.
The top players in the world, like Mbappe, distinguish themselves by making a difference in games against the biggest clubs. Rashford was instrumental in United’s comeback against Barcelona, which saw them go from down 1-0 to up 2-1 in only seven second-half minutes. Before putting in the cross that Jules Kounde diverted into his own goal, he initially received a ball from Fred and used it to drill a low finish past Marc-Andre ter Stegen at his near post. He then sprinted past Raphinha with scary ease.
Barcelona will have left Camp Nou wishing they had Rashford in their squad, and Ten Hag’s comments on Mbappe from two months ago don’t sound as absurd anymore.
Concerned about Pedri’s injuries is Xavi
Barcelona and Manchester United don’t want to be in this tournament; they have their sights set on the Champions League. For Barcelona in particular, the Europa League play-off round cost them.
Xavi can only hope that Pedri’s thigh issue, which took him off before halftime, is not severe. Even before medical personnel had arrived to check the injury, the Barca manager was in no mood to gamble with the 20-year-old midfielder and was indicating to his bench that he wanted to make a change. Although it was encouraging that Pedri sat down on the court rather than rushing to the treatment room when he was substituted for Sergi Roberto, anticipate his condition to be constantly watched over the next few days.
Barcelona’s objective this season is to win LaLiga for the first time since 2019, and Pedri has been essential in creating an 11-point advantage over Real Madrid at the top of the table after Barcelona dropped down from the Champions League to UEFA’s secondary club league.
The international player from Spain has now made 30 appearances across all competitions and has only missed starting four games this year. Xavi can only pray that Pedri will be able to participate fully in the title match and that the injury won’t be too serious.