FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED as Man United beat Barcelona 2-1

Fred swarmed all over Frenkie de Jong like a ‘mosquito’, Erik ten Hag’s half time changes injected life into the team while pressing machine Wout Weghorst is still finding his feet… FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED in Man United’s Europa League win over Barcelona

  • Manchester United came from a goal down to beat Barcelona 2-1 at Old Trafford 
  • Erik ten Hag hailed Fred for another stellar performance in the United midfield 
  • Sportsmail looks at five things we learned from another huge result for United

Manchester United’s revival under Erik ten Hag continues after their memorable 2-1 victory against Barcelona at Old Trafford on Thursday to put themselves in the hat for the next round of the Europa League.

Erik ten Hag’s side went through 4-3 on aggregate – after the Red Devils drew 2-2 at the Nou Camp last Thursday – in what was the Dutchman’s best result since he took the reins last summer. 

Man United had to overcome an early setback after Robert Lewandowski scraped a penalty past David de Gea in the 18th minute.

But after Fred equalised with a sumptuous first touch and finish, Antony completed a historic turnaround with a cultured strike to send United into the last-16 of the Europa League ahead of their trip to Wembley for the Carabao Cup final on Sunday.

Here, Sportsmail looks at five things we learned from a massive result as United go from strength to strength under Ten Hag.

Manchester United continued their fine season by knocking out European giants Barcelona out of the Europa League

Sportsmail takes a look at the five things we learned from Man United’s 2-1 victory at Old Trafford


The Portuguese Magnifico – as he is hailed at Old Trafford – has breathed new life into this United side after another starring display against Barcelona.

Having taken the armband in Harry Maguire’s absence from the first team, Fernandes’ mesmerising displays are crucial to why United are the only European side still competing in four competitions.

After firing an early effort straight at Marc-Andre Ter Stegen, and then bringing Alejandro Balde down to concede a penalty, Fernandes was on a mission to make amends.

The United star – who was labelled ‘the Portuguese guy’ by Xavi in the build-up to the game – inspired his side to victory, first by whipping a ball into Fred to equalise, before shrugging off Raphinha in the lead-up to Antony’s winning goal.

Since Cristiano Ronaldo’s explosive departure, Fernandes has racked up four goals and seven assists in 17 games. While Ronaldo was still at Old Trafford, Fernandes had three goals and two assists in 20 matches.

The Portuguese star is also quickly closing in on Kevin de Bruyne for the most chances created in the Premier League. He currently has 68, compared to De Bruyne’s 75 at the top of the rankings. 

With the playmaker in this kind of form, he could single handedly be responsible for leading United to silverware in this competition. 

Bruno Fernandes is well and truly leading Manchester United to potential glory this season


The United boss quickly turned to his bench at half-time after a lacklustre opening 45 minutes from his side at Old Trafford.

The Red Devils – who went into the break a goal down – were nowhere near their best and failed to cause Barcelona problems defensively early on.

However, Ten Hag decided to bring Antony on for Wout Weghorst at the break, and it certainly paid off.

The Brazilian winger moved out on to the right flank, allowing Fernandes to play down the middle with Marcus Rashford deployed as a No 9.

Almost immediately, Antony was sent racing in behind, causing Balde problems that he had not faced in the first-half. He later went on to score the winning goal with a sublime first-time finish.

Former United midfielder Paul Scholes, speaking on BT Sport, highlighted the key switch. ‘That’s something [Antony] is really good at. They needed someone to run in behind today, United, in that first half they didn’t have it,’ he said. ‘As soon as he came on in the first minute of the second half that’s exactly what he did.’ 

Man United have had 19 goals scored by substitutes in all competitions this season, the most of any big five European league side this season.

Ten Hag decided to bring Antony on for Wout Weghorst at half-time, and it certainly paid off


Erik ten Hag compared the Brazilian midfielder’s tenacity against Barcelona to being like that of a ‘mosquito’.

The United midfielder – who has stepped up in Christian Eriksen’s absence – delivered a sensational display to guide his side to a 2-1 win over the Catalan giants.

Fred was tasked with man-marking Barcelona midfielder and United target Frenkie de Jong, while he also cancelled out Robert Lewandowski’s penalty with a sublime first touch and finish past Ter Stegen.

After the game, Ten Hag said: ‘He had an important role already last week in Barcelona, this week the same. 

‘He had first to stop Frenkie de Jong from playing, he had to play as a mosquito around him and go behind him and he did it magnificently.

‘Last week, I think he gave a brilliant assist for Rashy [Marcus Rashford] in Barcelona, and today he scored the goal. A brilliant performance.’

Fred won 12 tackles against Barcelona over the two legs, seven more than any other player that played in the tie.

Erik ten Hag compared the Brazilian midfielder to a ‘mosquito’ after he swarmed over Frenkie de Jong to thwart his creativity


Manchester United fans have suffered through some strange recruitment over the last decade since Sir Alex Ferguson’s 26-year tenure ended.

From Memphis Depay to Alexis Sanchez and Radamel Falcao to Angel Di Maria, it has not always gone to plan.

However, United finally seemed to have cracked the code after their most recent signings started to deliver the goods. The likes of Fernandes and Raphael Varane are both relatively recent additions and have become pivotal to the team while Ten Hag’s signings Casemiro and Lisandro Martinez have brought new life to the club.

Yet again, the South American duo put on sensational displays at Old Trafford to help knock the Catalan giants out.

Martinez has already taken on Erling Haaland and Harry Kane but on Thursday he faced Robert Lewandowski and came out on top. He won three of his four tackles, made four clearances and won 70 per cent of his ground duels.

Meanwhile, the omnipresent Casemiro’s influence was yet again enormous, dictating the United midfield as he so often has this season, this time on his birthday.

Manchester United are finally recruiting well, with Casemiro and Lisandro Martinez the stand out performers


Wout Weghorst did not have one of his finest nights at Old Trafford and was ultimately hooked at half-time for matchwinner Antony.

The Dutchman – brought in to fill United’s No 9 void – has recently been moved to more of a No 10 role to play in behind the in-form Marcus Rashford. 

However, on Thursday night, Weghorst played in his traditional No 9 role and had fewer touches (12) and completed passes (2) than any other player on the pitch.

Weghorst continues to press well and was signed as a player who had the highest presses per 90 minutes (48.7) of anyone in the Premier League in 2021-22. 

But Ten Hag must find his best position soon as he is yet to add to his solitary goal against Nottingham Forest in the Carabao Cup semi-final. 

Wout Weghorst endured a frustrating evening, touching the ball just 12 times before he was hooked at half-time

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