Three words that resonate with football fans around the world. Two clubs with a certain level of prestige and history that makes them both rise to clubs worthy of international praise and attention. A setting that has been a witness for a multitude of English and European delights throughout the years.
And a crucial knockout feel that both fan bases were desperate to come out on top in.
What a time, what an atmosphere, and what a game of football we were all hoping to indulge in. Who would come out on top and take home European bragging rights, as well as a big knock of confidence going into the weekend?
Well, we all got the chance to find out.
The first half didn’t go poorly for Barca.
For the most part, they competed well with United, and held off from making any mistakes from United’s intense press.
There were some good spells of possession in the attack as well, with some of them simply not coming to fruition due to Barca’s inability to make the final key pass or take the final key shot.
Still though, they were doing some good work and it was obvious to anyone who watched.
What they were missing was some form of reward for their start, but that came to them soon via a questionable penalty won by Alejandro Balde.
On all replays shown, the conclusion seemed to be clear. It was a soft penalty that usually isn’t called. But the tug of the arm was apparent, so the call of a penalty was still somewhat justified. With such a glorious chance awaiting them, Barca needed to take advantage of it so they could control the tempo and environment early.
Any setbacks here though, and you’re risking losing some form of emotional control.
Luckily for Barca, they didn’t waste their chance, as Robert Lewandowski converted on the penalty to give Barca an early 1-0 lead.
Robert Lewandowski goal views from the stands pic.twitter.com/TPq92ru1HL
— IBT4P (@iibt4p) February 23, 2023
After this goal, Barca found it difficult to create more chances.
There was another chance late in the first half after David De Gea’s clumsy sequence of playing out of the back, but other than that, there wasn’t much in the way of chance creation.
The first half then concluded, with Barca holding on to a 1-0 lead at halftime.
A more controlled second half was needed if Barca was going to walk out of Old Trafford with a win. But that wasn’t going to be easy, given the circumstances and all.
So how did Barca fare in the second half?
Well, let’s just say Barca has had better days.
The second half was nothing short of an abomination.
After a bright first half — one that saw Barca compete toe to toe with United — Barca completely fell apart in the second half against a rejuvenated United side.
The control that Barca had acquired in the first half? Gone. The defensive toughness? Gone. With these two important facets evaporating for Barca, United was well prepared to strike when it mattered most.
And that’s what they did, by scoring two key second half goals that ultimately became the difference.
The first goal was an interesting one scored by Fred, who took a well timed pass, took a touch to clear him of any other threatening bodies in Barca’s penalty area, and slid home a nice finish past Marc- Andre Ter Stegen.
— Dj Tabz© (@tabagiro) February 23, 2023
It was a shot that Ter Stegen probably wants back, as it looked like it could’ve been saved. But in the end, it was a tally that drew United level, and brought back some infectious energy for the Old Trafford crowd to bask in.
And that energy was important, because minutes later, United got a second goal after some clumsy handling of the ball in Barca’s own final third. United’s pressure was making things difficult for Barca, mostly because the midfield didn’t have the adept number of technical bodies to move the squad out of dangerous spots.
Franck Kessie’s game isn’t based on that, so he struggled in that area, as well as Sergi Roberto, who struggled against a high intensity side once again.
But the struggles weren’t relegated to the midfield, as United’s pressure forced a winger in Raphinha, to give the ball away deep in Barca’s own final third. The turnover led to a few chances for United, the first two being blocked, before the third was slid home just past the outstretched arms of Ter Stegen once again.
— الحساب الاساسي HD24i@ (@xcdrfsw) February 23, 2023
At this point, Barca was in a bit of a dark spot.
They were building nothing in the attack, the midfield was getting overrun, and the defense was leaking — Jules Kounde for the most part — during a very crucial time.
Things looked bleak, but Barca still had time to flip their night around with just one important goal. Unfortunately, things didn’t go Barca’s way, aside from a dangerous chance from Lewandowski, although it was later wiped out anyway due to offside in the build up.
With that, Barca lost 2-1, knocking them out of the Europa League and once again bringing questions upon their ability to win in Europe, as well as their manager’s ability to guide them to European glory once again.
This was a disappointment, no other way to describe it.
Yes, there were key injuries in the midfield and the attacking sense wasn’t there for Barca at all today. But still, to lose against Manchester United after the start the club has had this season? It’s never going to feel like your average loss.
At this point, Barca is out of a European competition once again, with their squad depth and lack of impact from big names once again being a big topic.
It’s easy to point where Barca goes from here, with La Liga and Copa Del Rey standing as the only two trophies this club can possibly win this season. But still, this elimination feels heavy and it feels painful.
Onward and upward though, that’s the only way to go.
Barca’s next match
Barca’s next match will be on Sunday against Almeria.
See you all then!