Barcelona and Manchester United produced a spectacle reminiscent of their great European nights, a spectacle that, had it not fallen on a Thursday, might well have been mistaken for a Champions League tie. There were four goals, controversy, fast-paced football and thrills galore. There was nothing lacking at the Camp Nou on a night that vindicated the Europa League and left a certain air of nostalgia for two historic sides that have been on the wane in recent years.
Barcelona rallied from a tricky situation, with Pedri injured and two Rashford flashes that brought back the most recent European ghosts at the Camp Nou. The visit of United served to corroborate that this Barcelona team is made of strong stuff under Xavi.
Nevertheless, the Blaugrana showed character and pressured United in the final stretch of the match and offered enough attacking moments to believe that regaining lost prestige is not such a distant goal for the club.
Raphinha has arrived
It has taken a while, but Dembele’s injury has uncovered the Raphinha that the Catalan club have been waiting for since his signing last summer. Decisive in goals and assists, the Brazilian is getting better and better and each game he is gaining more of a standing in Xavi’s side. Against United he was better and his anger at the substitution was understandable.
How long before someone goes mad for Rashford?
Rashford is in the type of form that could see another rich club come to United with a blank chequebook and take the English striker. His numbers are frightening and the feeling he left at the Camp Nou is that of a striker capable of changing a game on his own. He shook the entire Barcelona defense and was pivotal to both United goals.
Pedri’s injury has Barcelona on edge
There is no player more important to Barcelona’s game today than Pedri. His muscular injury in the first half has set alarm bells ringing. With the league at stake and the cup tie with Madrid just around the corner, the diagnosis of the Canary Islander is the worst of the uncertainties that the team is facing right now.
Ter Stegen is crazy
The German is still at his best and, on yet another night, he kept out two goals in the first half. At delicate moments, the keeper always comes up with the goods to keep his team in the game. It’s hard to think of a keeper who is fitter and more decisive than the German international. With him, Barcelona always have extra life in knockout games of this kind. There remains the stain, however, of the Rashford goal in which the goalkeeper did not cover his near post as he should have done.
The Araujo-Kounde change didn’t work out well
Xavi swapped positions between the Uruguayan defender and the Frenchman thinking, surely, that Rashford would play on the left flank. Ten Hag anticipated the move and put the Englishman as an offensive reference. Xavi did not rectify and the result was a much more uncomfortable Araujo on the flank and an erratic and too hesitant Kounde. The Frenchman’s night was particularly bad.