Matt’s meanderings: Five things learnt from Barcelona’s second-leg win over Manchester United


Barcelona progressed to the semi-finals of the Champions League at the expense of Manchester United following a 3-0 defeat at the Nou Camp, Matt Lee gives his observations on the tie.

United need to take their early chances

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer knew that his side needed to be at their best in order to overturn the 1-0 deficit from the first leg. They may well have entered the game full of optimism having recently come from behind to beat Paris Saint-Germain at the Stade de France, but beating a side who have note conceded more than once at home in the competition since a 3-0 loss to Bayern Munich in the 2012-13 season was always going to be a much more difficult task.

United eventually fell to a 4-0 aggregate defeat at the Nou Camp, but it could have been a much different story had Marcus Rashford converted his early chance.

The United teenager entered plenty of space as he reeled onto Paul Pogba’s through-ball in the first minute, but the Englishman was unable to keep his shot low and would have most certainly be ruing the missed chance at full-time.

Messi is still the world’s best

His dazzling footwork and exquisite finishing sets him a class above the rest. It would be an understatement to say that the all-time Barcelona top-scorer played a crucial role as his side reached the Champions League semi-finals for the first time since 2015.

The Argentine produced one of his trademark high-quality performances as he dominated the tie after being kept relatively quiet in the first-leg.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner showcased his excellence as he applied pressure to force Ashley Young into a mistake before darting forward and unleashing an excellent finish from the edge of the box into the bottom corner.

And the Catalan side’s star striker was not finished there as he grabbed a second as his low shot squirmed underneath David De Gea. Messi could have added more to his tally as he showcased excellent footwork to dumbfound the United players, but the fact that the Argentine could have left the Nou Camp disappointed having scored just twice is testament to his ability.

Still baffles many that he finished fifth in the Ballon d’Or voting.

Jordi Alba as a left-back

Without a tremendous work ethic as that of Alba, Barcelona would have faced a slightly more uphill task against United.

The 30-year-old featured heavily on the left-flank, constantly finding himself playing alongside Barcelona’s attacking trio of Messi, Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho.

His pinpoint deliveries continually troubled Jones and Smalling at the heart of the United back-line, while his driving runs caused havoc on the right side of defence as Barcelona provided endless attacking threats.

Coutinho silences the critics

There is no better way in silencing your critics than scoring a sublime goal to ensure your side’s progression to the Champions League semi-finals.

The Brazillian has scored just four times since the turn of the new year but rifled an effort into the top corner to net his eleventh goal of the season.

Having shuffled into space and, after hard-work from Alba and Messi, rifling well into the top echelons, Coutinho celebrated with his fingers in his ears as a sign of defiance towards those who have criticised him following his £142 million move in January 2018.

Ernesto Valverde’s first Champions League semi-final

The former Spanish international has gone down as a relative success at Barcelona during his time with the Catalan side.

Despite having struggled to gain success on the European stage, Valverde guided Barcelona to the La Liga and Copa del Rey titles last season as well as being triumphant in the Supercopa de Espana.

The next stage for the Spaniard is European success and having guided Barcelona to his first ever Champions League semi-final as a manager, this could be a great opportunity for Barcelona to reclaim Europe’s top trophy four years after their last accomplishment in the competition.


About Author

When not busy covering local news for EssexLive, Matt Lee can be found in the press box at Portman Road covering Ipswich Town's return to the Championship and push for the Premier League.

Comments are closed.