Man Utd come from behind to stun Barcelona in another Europa League thriller

Manchester United came from a goal down at a fired-up Old Trafford to beat Barcelona 2-1 (4-3 on aggregate) to progress to the last 16 of the Europa League.

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The tie was finely poised going into the second leg after last week’s 2-2 draw at Camp Nou but the visitors took the lead from the penalty spot inside the first 20 minutes.

United had been cagey in the first half but, inspired by some electric substitutions, netted twice in a pulsating second-half display to claim a massive victory over the Spanish league leaders and progress to the next round.

Erik ten Hag’s side made a bright start to the contest and had a great opportunity to take the lead when Bruno Fernandes was played in one-v-one by Casemiro, but he delayed his shot a tad too long, narrowing the angle, and Marc-Andre ter Stegen saved well with his feet.

Fernandes was then involved at the other end of the pitch, grabbing Alejandro Balde’s arm just inside the box; it looked soft, but the referee pointed to the spot and Robert Lewandowski put away the penalty despite David de Gea getting fingertips to the ball and pushing it onto the post.

United had played with swagger and verve at Camp Nou but were a little flatter on home soil, with a poor kick from De Gea very nearly gifting Barca a second goal shortly before half-time.

Ten Hag changed things up at the break, bringing on summer signing Antony in place of Wout Weghorst; the giant Dutchman had again played in his disruptive, number 10 role but his departure saw Fernandes move into the centre.

That switch paid immediate dividends, with the Portuguese playmaker collecting the ball in a pocket of space on the edge of the box and feeding Fred, who took a great first touch and then fired the ball past Ter Stegen at his near post.

Old Trafford was rocking now and United were playing with considerably more pace and intent. A long ball in behind the defence saw Antony burst towards goal, but he could not quite get the ball under control and Andreas Christensen made an excellent, last-ditch tackle.

Marcus Rashford – such a menace in the first leg – started to influence the match more, speeding in behind Barca’s rattled defence with increasing ease, and the blue touch paper was well and truly lit when Fernandes booted the ball into a stricken Frenkie de Jong.

But Barcelona are made of stern stuff under Xavi and De Jong quickly picked himself up to send a devilish cross into the box for Jules Kounde, whose header was acrobatically turned over the bar by De Gea.

United continued to pour forward despite the visitors’ growing threat on the break and their endeavour was rewarded in the 73rd minute.

Substitute Alejandro Garnacho burst towards the byline and pulled the ball back, with a couple of fluffed attempts seeing the ball land to Antony who steadied himself and curled a left-footed effort just beyond the reach of Ter Stegen.

The final embers of the match played out like the whole tie, with both teams pushing for a goal in a thrilling, end-to-end finale, but United’s stubborn rear-guard held firm – with Raphael Varane even clearing the ball off the line – to ensure their name will be in the hat for Friday’s round-of-16 draw.

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