Thursday 11 April 2019

Match report: Man Utd 0-1 Barcelona

Manchester United will need another unlikely act of escapology in the Champions League after Luke Shaw's unfortunate early own goal gave Barcelona a slender first leg advantage at Old Trafford.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's main objective would have been to remain in contention heading into next week's return fixture at the Nou Camp and in that sense it was mission accomplished.
The team can count themselves very unlucky not to have claimed at least a draw after dominating for long periods against Ernesto Valverde's side who were somewhat short of their brilliant best. Lionel Messi was kept relatively quiet on the night but the United players will have to engineer more clear-cut chances of their own in the Catalan capital if a place in the last four is to be secured.

 20 years on from the treble-winning exploits, United have called on the spirit of 1999 on several occasions already in this European campaign, most notably in the last-16 tie against Paris St-Germain in France.

Old foe Luis Suarez played a part in the only goal after 12 minutes when his header from Lionel Messi's cross struck Shaw's shoulder and was given after initially being ruled out for offside. Ultimately, this was a night when United showed great endeavour, encouraging spirit and plenty of perspiration - even if clear cut chances were at a premium. That said, Barca themselves struggled for anything gilt-edged  and were unusually made to grind out a win, despite their star-studded line up but they showed more experience, greater guile and no less nous to ensure that it's the visitors who remain in pole position in this quarter-final.

It looked like it would be a long night for United as Barcelona immediately set about silencing an atmospheric Old Trafford by monopolising possession and territory. They soon got the goal that you sensed was coming when Messi's cross found Suarez and headed nodded in off Shaw's arm. Italian referee Daniele Orsati checked VAR and then over-ruled the decision of his assistant who had chalked the goal out.

But the Reds did not crumble and grew into the game, with Scott McTominay coming to the fore. McSauce belied his tender years with a coming of age showing of maturity, confidence and composure. He had a penalty appeal waved away in a challenge from Gerard Pique, and Messi then ended up bloodied and bruised after coming worse off in a clash with Chris Smalling.
However, it was United who almost got another kick in the teeth nine minutes before half-time through Coutinho, but De Gea denied the much-maligned Brazilian with his foot.
Then came arguably the best chance of the match. After neat build up, Fred found Diogo Dalot at the back post but - in an unfamiliar left wing-back position - he could only head wide when well placed and unmarked.

Barcelona, as you'd expect given the quality and talent at their disposal, carried a threat throughout and went close again through Suarez, who fired into the side netting.
Marcus Rashford went close with a free-kick and then miscued a presentable volley, before Jesse Lingard was harshly booked in his first involvement after a questionable foul on fellow sub Arturo Vidal.

Messi proved that he is indeed a mortal human being when his daisy cutter free-kick was safely held by De Gea on 83 minutes after Paul Pogba had scythed him down.
That proved the last action of the encounter but it's only half time and - after the miracle of Paris - who knows what might happen in Catalonia.

Overall team performance: 8/10
United Faithful Man of the Match: Scott McTominay. The best player on the pitch was immense.

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