Manchester United have advanced to the next round of the 2022-23 Europa League after a thrilling 2-1 victory over Barcelona in the second leg of their Knockout Playoff tie at Old Trafford on Thursday night. The final score was 4-3 on aggregate after the first leg ended in a 2-2 draw at the Camp Nou.
Despite a shaky start, Barcelona dominated the first half, with their midfielders playing fantastic football on both ends and the back four completely shutting down United’s best attacking players.
The Catalans took the lead in the 18th minute with Robert Lewandowski scoring from the spot after Bruno Fernandes fouled Alejandro Balde inside the box.
Barça then kept the ball and moved it quickly through the lines, using the wings to great effect and pressing really high up the pitch. However, United came out strong in the second half, with Fred scoring the equalizer just 90 seconds in. The Red Devils then dominated the next 10 minutes, and Barça started making some really poor mistakes in possession which increased the pressure even more.
Despite a valiant effort from the visitors, United scored the winning goal in the 75th minute when Antony found the bottom corner after Andreas Christensen and Frenkie De Jong made two big blocks inside the box. Barça had 15 minutes to find a goal and send the tie to extra-time, but their attacking substitutes Ferran Torres and Ansu Fati couldn’t make a decisive impact.
Barça played really well at Old Trafford without their three most creative players, Pedri, Gavi, and Ousmane Dembélé, but they were sorely missed at the end when the team needed a late goal. The defeat ends Barcelona’s European journey this season, but the fans should be proud of the team’s efforts, as they held their own against arguably the best team in the world right now on both legs.
Xavi Hernández and his team will now focus on La Liga and learn from the painful night at Old Trafford to continue evolving and try again in Europe next season. Manchester United, on the other hand, will advance to the next round of the Europa League, and Erik ten Hag will be pleased with his team’s performance in the second half, which saw them book a place in the next round of the competition.