Man Utd make Old Trafford rock again! Winners & losers as Red Devils triumph over Barcelona in Europa League knockout play-off

Casemiro David de Gea Manchester United Barcelona 2022-23
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Manchester United completed a second half turnaround in a thrilling Europa League contest to knock Barcelona out of Europe.

For the first time in years, there's European belief in Old Trafford. Manchester United overturned an early deficit and roared to life in the second half to beat Barcelona 2-1 (4-3 on aggregate) and advance in the Europa League knockouts. And although it's hardly a marquee competition, United put in an admirable second-half performance to beat La Liga's leaders.

But it wasn't exactly easy. Barcelona went ahead from the spot inside 30 minutes, with Robert Lewandowski converting after Bruno Fernandes pulled Alex Balde to the ground.

Still, Manchester United stayed in it, and enjoyed spells of possession as Barcelona struggled to assert authority on the game in the absence of Gavi and Pedri.

United came alive after the half and got back on level terms within two minutes, with Fred finishing a sweet passing move. They found the winner in the 73rd, when Antony curled a shot into the far corner to make the crowd at Old Trafford rock like it rarely has on European nights in recent years.

Barcelona made a late push, but Raphael Varane cleared Lewandoski's effort off the line deep into stoppage time to avoid any late heartbreak.

So, one dream stayed alive as another ended. Manchester United are already playing in one final, the Carabao Cup, and still have a chance to reach a second. Barcelona, meanwhile, can turn their attention to pushing for a first La Liga title in three years - and that ability to focus on a single task might not be the worst thing.

GOAL breaks down the winners & losers from Old Trafford...

  1. WINNER: Fred

    There was nothing particularly controlled about Fred's equaliser. The ball sort of rolled awkwardly off his shin and into the far corner. His lack of conviction is rather irrelevant given the magnitude of the goal. Fred made good on a spell of United pressure and helped turn the match around.

    But Fred offered more than just a big moment. He was scrappy in midfield, especially in the second half. Casemiro tends to grab the plaudits for the way that he has lifted this side, but Fred's contributions and willingness to do the dirty work should not be neglected. He's not first choice - and probably doesn't deserve to be. But on Thursday night, he was a momentary hero. And that's exactly what his team needed.

  2. LOSER: Raphinha

    What a frustrating player.

    Raphinha has enjoyed the best few weeks of his Barcelona career. He's been scoring goals, creating chances, and showing flashes of becoming the deadly 1v1 forward that the Blaugrana bought from Leeds. But he can still go missing - or try to do too much. That was the case on Thursday night. Raphinha was selfish at times, struggling to link up with Lewandowski and Sergi Roberto, instead launching ill-advised efforts on goal.

    His defensive work was good, especially in the early goings. But Raphinha wasn't necessarily on the pitch to track back. Indeed, he needed to be clinical, and make something happen. He was wasteful.

  3. WINNER: Antony

    Speaking of clinical...

    Antony is not the first name that comes to mind in the realm of elite finishers. The Brazilian has a tendency to dabble in the final third. But on Thursday, he took his chance, scoring the winner with a lovely curler past a sprawling Marc Andre ter Stegen. Antony contributed little else, and perhaps should have created a few more chances in key moments. But no one will remember the passes he didn't play on Thursday night.

    The former Ajax winger hasn't been short of critics in his first season in English football. But there have still been some incisive moments of quality from the Brazilian that showed why United paid so much for his services. Whether he can score goals like that every week remains to be seen. But on Thursday, he took his chance. And like Fred, that's all that matters.

  4. LOSER: Xavi

    Are Barca back? If they are, Xavi didn't get enough out of his team to prove it on Thursday night. The manager was hamstrung by a series of injuries and suspensions and was forced to field a semi-fit Sergio Busquets against a suffocating Man Utd midfield. But this could have been the manager's signature showing, the game where he outsmarted Ten Hag to produce a vital away win.

    But Ten Hag made some changes, tinkered with his lineup, and got a better performance out of his side in the second half, while Xavi simply appeared to ask for more of the same.

    Barcelona are still positioned to win La Liga, and are a safe bet for Copa del Rey glory. But European success would have been the perfect sweetener to an already memorable season. Instead, they'll be hoping for another run next year.

  5. WINNER: Erik Ten Hag

    Revolution? Can we call it that yet? Whatever the word is, Ten Hag has certainly awakened something at Old Trafford. After a mediocre first half, United turned in an excellent second. Marcus Rashford was typically lively, Casemiro was as commanding as ever, and Raphael Varane has started to discover some of the form that made him a top centre-back at Real Madrid.

    Ten Hag is mostly to thank. United spent a hefty sum of money to bolster the squad last summer, bringing in top talent at key positions. But the former Ajax manager has still got the best out of players once thought redundant.

    Yes, it's the Europa League, but Thursday night felt like a potential marker on a rise to bigger things for the Red Devils.

  6. LOSER: Wout Weghorst

    Weghorst's exit alone didn't allow Man Utd to come back. But they were a radically different side when the Netherlands international wasn't on the pitch. He's a slightly awkward fit in the United side, and despite his physical presence, doesn't move the ball quickly enough to facilitate his teammates' electric pace.

    He will likely still be a crucial part of Ten Hag's side for the remainder of the season, but on tonight's evidence, Man Utd are quite simply a better team without him. But after a win like this, it's likely that Weghorst is willing to swallow his pride.