Manchester United 2-1 Barcelona ( Fred 47′, Antony 73′ | Lewandowski 18′ pen) Man Utd advance 4-3 on aggregate

Manchester United got the better of Barcelona in another blockbuster encounter as Antony’s second-half winner earned Erik ten Hag’s side a spot in the Europa League last 16.

Barca led through a Robert Lewandowski penalty in the first half, but Fred levelled the tie two minutes after the break – kick-starting yet another frenetic half just as the second 45 minutes of the first leg had proved to be.

Both sides had their chances, but ultimately it was subsitute Antony who put United ahead with a fine side-footed finish, and that was enough for the hosts to join Arsenal in Friday’s draw.

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A terrific atmosphere at Old Trafford appeared to inspire United’s players early on, and inside four minutes it required a decent stop from Marc-André ter Stegen to deny Bruno Fernandes the opener.

Some 10 minutes later, Fernandes was then penalised for a foul inside his own area, with referee Clément Turpin pointing to the spot after the United midfielder grabbed the shirt of Alejandro Balde.

Soccer Football - Europa League - Play-Off Second Leg - Manchester United v FC Barcelona - Old Trafford, Manchester, Britain - February 23, 2023 Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes celebrates after the match REUTERS/Carl Recine
The match turned in United’s favour despite Fernandes conceding a penalty (Photo: Reuters)

Though arguably soft, “it’s a penalty,” agreed BT Sport co-commentator Robbie Savage. “People will argue there’s not enough in it, but Fernandes had his arm on Balde. As soon as the referee gives it they’re not going to change it, it’s not a clear and obvious error.”

Indeed, the call stood, and though David de Gea got a hand on Lewandowski’s penalty, he was unable to keep the spot-kick out.

United looked short of ideas, and almost went two down after De Gea’s poor back pass, but the goalkeeper was rescued by a crucial block from Casemiro.

Man Utd vs Barcelona player ratings

Man Utd: De Gea 6, Shaw 7, Martinez 7, Varane 8, Wan-Bissaka 6, Casemiro 8, Fred 8, Sancho 6, Fernandes 7, Rashford 6, Weghorst 5. Subs: Antony 8, Dalot 6, Garnacho 6, McTominay n/a.

Barcelona: Ter Stegen 6, Araujo 6, Christensen 7, Kounde 6, Balde 6, De Jong 6, Busquets 6, Kessie 5, Roberto 6, Lewandowski 7, Raphinha 6. Subs: Torres 6, Fati n/a, Alonso n/a.

Barcelona took their one-goal lead into the break, and that prompted Erik ten Hag to make a half-time substitute and tactical switch – bringing on Antony for Wout Weghorst and pushing Marcus Rashford up top.

The change worked immediately, setting Sancho free down the left, where the move for their equaliser started. He found Fernandes, who in turn picked out Fred, and a superb touch from the Brazilian was followed by a shinned, but powerful, effort into the bottom corner.

Old Trafford erupted, and sensed this tie could quickly turn in their favour, but the promising attacks that followed lacked the finishing touch as Barca defended for their lives.

The game was becoming stretched, with signs Barca could threaten on the break, and the visitors almost went back ahead when Jules Kounde’s header prompted a fine flying save from De Gea.

However, it was United who got the second goal, with Antony placing a fine effort just below Ter Stegen’s outstretched hand after Luke Shaw’s clever backheel kept the play alive and two previous attempts were blocked.

“He’s been such a threat since he’s come on,” said Savage, with Antony ultimately the match-winner as United held on to make a mighty statement, not only for their Europa League chances, but to affirm that the tide really is turning under Ten Hag with a Carabao Cup final around the corner.

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