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MAN UTD 0-1 BARCELONA: 5 TALKING POINTS AS CATALANS LAND CHAMPIONS LEAGUE ADVANTAGE

MAN UTD 0-1 BARCELONA: 5 TALKING POINTS AS CATALANS LAND CHAMPIONS LEAGUE ADVANTAGE

Manchester United have a mountain to climb in Spain after an early own goal by Luke Shaw earned Barcelona a 1-0 first leg quarter-final win at Old Trafford.

Former Kop star Luis Suarez struck with a 13th minute header after a flash of genius from Lionel Messi set up the goal – helped over the line by Shaw.

The goal was initially ruled out until VAR intervened and gave Barcelona a decisive advantage going back to the Nou Camp.

It looked like United would be on the rack all night but they recovered superbly and got a foothold in the game – but just couldn’t score.

The best chance fell to young defender Diogo Dalot but he should have done better with a 40 minute header after a superb Marcus Rashford cross.

United will have to shuffle their defence in Spain after Shaw’s first half yellow card means he’s suspended for the return leg.


1. Messi bloodied – but unbowed

All eyes were on Lionel Messi as arguably the world’s greatest modern day player took centre stage.

United’s defence – and midfield – teamed up to make sure they limited the damage the Argentinian wizard was able to cause.

He didn’t get on the scoresheet – but he still made the decisive contribution of the night as he collected a pass before playing a sublime blind pass to the far post for Luis Suarez to score.

Defenders usually don’t get near him but Chris Smalling got closer than most – and gave the Barca superstar a serious bloody-nose.


2. Suarez makes his mark

As a former Liverpool idol Luis Suarez was on enemy territory at Old Trafford – so how he loved silencing an Old Trafford crowd who’d booed his arrival back in Manchester.

And he played his part in a 13th minute opener that was a triumph for VAR – at last.

The system correctly ruled Lionel Messi was onside before crossing to the back post for Suarez to score with a header across David de Gea and into the net.

The Uruguayan thought he had bagged his 24th goal of the season for Barcelona – only for it to be given as a Luke Shaw own goal.

However, his all-round display and his tenacity throughout was proof that the striker is still a deadly force at 32.


3. Busquets rides his luck

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Sergio Busquets has been Barcelona’s enforcer for years – and no-one does it better.

But the Spaniard was lucky to escape with just a solitary yellow card after a string of fouls that could easily have brought the 30-year-old midfield holder a red card.

Italian referee Gianluca Rocchi was clearly in a lenient mood especially when he let Busquets’ – already on a yellow – get off scot-free with a 38 minute foul on Paul Pogba on the half-way line which was a clear booking.


4. McTominay steps up

Eyebrows were raised by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s choice of Scott McTominay and Fred in midfield.

But the pair were no disgrace with 22-year-old youth product McTominay in particular standing up to the threat Barcelona posed.

The youngster – once preferred to Paul Pogba by Jose Mourinho – put in a big shift and kept his discipline.

Solskjaer had challenged Pogba to put a marker down, stamp himself on the ocassion and “run the game”. The message, it seems, didn’t get through.


5. Barca – still playing the beautiful game

Having won the Champions League twice in three years against Manchester Unitedin 2009 and 2011 it’s a surprise Barcelona have only won it once since in 2015 with Real Madrid the Kings of Europe the last three years running.

But Ernesto Valverde’s stars still play the beautiful game and pass teams to death.

In the first 20 minutes of this tie Jordi Alba, Artur and Ivan Rakitic completed more passes than the whole United team put together as they enjoyed 87.1 per cent possession.

United got to grips with the Spaniards ,though, and more than held their own but found an equaliser elusive.

Mirror Football

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