Manchester United secured a vital win over Barcelona in the Europa League on Wednesday night, as two fallen giants of European football collided at Old Trafford. The game was full of excitement and action, with plenty of talking points to take away from the encounter.
1. Luke Shaw Yellow Card
One of the key incidents of the match came just two minutes in when Luke Shaw went in on Jules Kounde with a high and dangerous studs up challenge. The tackle left the Barcelona defender writhing in pain, and many believed that Shaw should have been shown a yellow card for the challenge. However, the referee decided to let the incident slide, much to the frustration of the Barcelona players and fans.
2. Lack of Mental Fortitude in Barcelona
While Barcelona have been performing well in La Liga this season, their lack of mental fortitude in Europe was once again on display against United. The Catalan giants have struggled in the Champions League in recent years, and their early exit from this season’s competition saw them drop down into the Europa League. Despite their domestic form, they have been unable to replicate that success on the European stage, going out of the Champions League for the last two seasons in a row, and now losing to United in the Europa League.
3. Jules Kounde
Jules Kounde was one of Barcelona’s standout players in the first half of the game, putting in a dominant display in defense. However, as the match progressed, Kounde seemed to disappear, and he was unable to help his team maintain their lead. While he may have had a strong first half, it was ultimately not enough to secure a result for his team.
4. Robert Lewandowski
Barcelona’s star striker, Robert Lewandowski, had a difficult night against United. The Polish forward has been struggling to find his best form in recent weeks, and that continued against United. He failed to make an impact in games against Bayern Munich, and his only significant contribution in the Champions League this season was in the second leg against Inter Milan, which Barcelona drew, and were subsequently knocked out.
5. Xavi’s Substitutions
Xavi’s substitutions also came under scrutiny, as the Barcelona manager was unable to turn the game in his team’s favor with his changes. While Ten Hag’s decision to bring on Antony proved to be a masterstroke, Xavi’s substitutions failed to have the desired impact. Sergio Roberto and Raphinha were both ineffective in the second half, with the latter practically invisible. It was only when Ferran Torres was introduced that Barcelona began to look more dangerous going forward.
Overall, it was a disappointing night for Barcelona, who will now need to pick themselves up and regroup ahead of their next game. As for Manchester United, this win will provide them with a much-needed confidence boost, as they look to continue their Europa League campaign and push for a top-four finish in the Premier League.