Match ends, Manchester United 2, Barcelona 1.
Manchester United 2-1 Barcelona (4-3 on agg): Fred and Antony send Man Utd into Europa League last 16
Manchester United produced a memorable second-half comeback to reach the Europa League last 16 and knock out Barcelona in the process.
Brazilian duo Fred and Antony, who came on as a half-time substitute, both drilled home low first-time shots in front of an ecstatic Stretford End.
It was a victory that looked so unlikely at half-time as Barcelona led thanks to Robert Lewandowski’s 18th-minute penalty after Bruno Fernandes’ needless foul on Alejandro Balde.
But Antony’s arrival for struggling forward Wout Weghost changed the course of the tie as it injected more pace into United’s attacks, which the La Liga leaders failed to deal with.
Erik ten Hag’s side now move on to Wembley, where they will look to collect their first silverware since 2017 when they face Newcastle in the EFL Cup final.
For Barcelona, it was the first time they have been eliminated from European competition without reaching the last 16 since 1998-1999, which is not quite what president Joan Laporta had in mind when he pulled all those economic levers last year.
It was also Barcelona’s first defeat since October and ended an 18-match unbeaten run.
After the match, Ten Hag said: “It was a magnificent night. I think it is brilliant when you can beat Barcelona, eight points ahead of Real Madrid in La Liga and we have seen in this week Real Madrid playing.
“A magnificent performance and we have to take it with us this season that we can win the games.”
He added: “I think we have great personalities, starting with David, Rapha, Licha, Casemiro, Bruno, winning types.
“Everyone has a such a strong belief in this team and fight in this team and you can see it with the subs, they are bringing energy and quality and a different dynamic in games. All the subs, not only in this game, did brilliant.”
Fred the red menace
Fred has had plenty of detractors since his £47m move to United from Shakhtar Donetsk in 2018.
The chances are if Christian Eriksen had not been ruled out until the end of April through injury, he wouldn’t even have started this game.
Yet, as Ten Hag has admitted, anyone capable of playing regularly for Brazil has to be a good player and this was one of those occasions when he proved it.
Fred’s goal was an excellent effort as he moved into space on the edge of the area, unseen by Barca’s Dutch midfielder Frenkie de Jong, who United spent so long trying to sign in the summer.
When De Jong did come across to pressure his opponent after Fernandes had played a superb through ball, he was too late to prevent Fred drilling home the equaliser.
The goal transformed the contest. Fred then used his energy to break down Barcelona counter attacks, make surging runs that unsettled the visitors and even did the simple passing right, which he quite often gets wrong.
Fred also followed up Alejandro Garnacho in having a shot blocked before a third effort from Antony brought their second goal and allowed United to join Arsenal in the last-16 draw.
Whoever they get, the first leg will be at home on 9 March.
Ten Hag’s decisive half-time switch
Ten Hag has praised Weghorst for his industry but at this level – a Champions League game in all but name – he looked what he is, an emergency signing brought in at relatively little expense to plug a gap created by Cristiano Ronaldo’s unscheduled exit before someone more suitable comes in next summer.
The continued injury absence of Anthony Martial means Weghorst is having to play a more prominent role than Ten Hag envisaged and it weakens his team overall.
It was no surprise Antony replaced him at half-time, nor that the hosts’ performance should improve so markedly as a result.
There were still some nervy moments, with De Gea producing a fine save to deny Jules Kounde after Jadon Sancho had failed to track the France defender and Raphael Varane booting Lewandowski’s shot away from danger in injury time when it might have been rolling in.
But it was Ten Hag and his coaching staff celebrating at the final whistle.
The Dutchman has evidently transformed fortunes at a club that appeared to be going nowhere fast 12 months ago, although he knows it does need some silverware to really underline that they are on the right track.
John Motson RIP
Manchester United paid tribute to legendary BBC commentator John Motson at Old Trafford.
The club placed a picture of Motson, who died on Thursday, on one of the tables in the area of the press box where the broadcast media sit, together with a candle in Motson’s honour.
Player of the match
Squad number9Player nameLewandowski
Squad number22Player nameRaphinha
Squad number21Player nameF de Jong
Squad number1Player nameter Stegen
Squad number23Player nameKoundé
Squad number19Player nameKessie
Squad number4Player nameAraújo
Squad number28Player nameBalde
Squad number5Player nameBusquets
Squad number15Player nameChristensen
Squad number20Player nameRoberto
Squad number11Player nameF Torres
Squad number10Player nameAnsu Fati
Squad number17Player nameAlonso
- 1de Gea
- 29Wan-BissakaSubstituted forDalotat 67′minutes
- 6Li Martínez
- 18CasemiroBooked at 86mins
- 8Bruno FernandesBooked at 60mins
- 25SanchoSubstituted forGarnachoat 67′minutesBooked at 78mins
- 10RashfordSubstituted forMcTominayat 88′minutes
- 27WeghorstSubstituted forAntonyat 45′minutes
- 1ter Stegen
- 4AraújoSubstituted forAlonsoat 82′minutes
- 5BusquetsBooked at 83mins
- 21F de Jong
- 22RaphinhaSubstituted forAnsu Fatiat 75′minutes
- 9LewandowskiBooked at 71mins
- 20RobertoBooked at 60minsSubstituted forF Torresat 70′minutes
- 10Ansu Fati
- 11F Torres
- 26Peña Sotorres
Second Half ends, Manchester United 2, Barcelona 1.
Offside, Barcelona. Frenkie de Jong tries a through ball, but Robert Lewandowski is caught offside.
Hand ball by Marcos Alonso (Barcelona).
Robert Lewandowski (Barcelona) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Lisandro Martínez (Manchester United).
Foul by Robert Lewandowski (Barcelona).
Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Manchester United. Scott McTominay replaces Marcus Rashford.
Casemiro (Manchester United) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Robert Lewandowski (Barcelona) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Casemiro (Manchester United).
Delay over. They are ready to continue.
Delay in match because of an injury Alejandro Garnacho (Manchester United).
Sergio Busquets (Barcelona) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Sergio Busquets (Barcelona).
Alejandro Garnacho (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Delay over. They are ready to continue.
Substitution, Barcelona. Marcos Alonso replaces Ronald Araújo.
Delay in match because of an injury Marcus Rashford (Manchester United).