Erik: You can see Xavi’s imprint on Barcelona

Wednesday 15 February 2023 14:59

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag acknowledges that Barcelona are on an upwards trajectory under head coach Xavi Hernandez, and are playing a brand of football that is reminiscent of the former midfielder’s style on the pitch.

As a player, Xavi was one of the finest playmakers of his generation, with his excellent technical ability on the ball integral to helping the possession-based sides he played in dominate their opponents. 

Ahead of the Europa League knockout round play-off tie between Barcelona and United, Ten Hag has shared his admiration for Xavi’s career and believes that his playing philosophy is now evident in his own team that we’ll face twice over the next eight days.
Xavi's 767 appearances for Barcelona include their Champions League final wins over United in 2009 and 2011.

“As a player, I admired him,” Ten Hag told UEFA, in an interview ahead of Thursday’s first leg at the Nou Camp.

“That Barcelona team when he played, he was an important part of it, and you can see that philosophy he brings to Barcelona now.

“I really like his team, the way of attacking, the attacking way of play. He’s doing really well, and I think he’s in the right direction.

“It’s going to be a really good challenge between Manchester United and Barcelona.”

In his first full season in charge at Barcelona, Xavi’s team are showing form that was previously expected of the many sides that he played in.

The Catalan club notably sit 11 points clear at the top of La Liga and haven’t lost a game in any competition since October – that was a 3-0 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League, their only loss on home soil this season so far.

“It’s a big challenge. I think both teams like to play each other and it’s a big challenge,” Erik added, prior to Thursday’s first leg.

“We will be prepared, we are looking forward, it gives [us] a lot of energy and it will be a great game.”
Erik: Barcelona challenge gives us energy Video

Erik: Barcelona challenge gives us energy

Ten Hag's words on Xavi and the Barcelona tie are why you should watch to the end of this insightful interview...


In the build-up to Thursday’s first leg, Barcelona’s head coach has shared his respect for Ten Hag and United.

“Manchester United, in my opinion, is a big club in Europe,” said Xavi, during his press conference earlier this afternoon.

“Of course, they are not in the best moment of their history, but they are Manchester United so we respect them a lot. We respect Ten Hag and all the players. 

“They are now in a very good moment, they are positive, they have had good results in the last [few] weeks so it's very difficult.

“Even though we are in the Europa League, we respect them a lot. It will be really tough and really difficult to beat them.”

How Barcelona are shaping up for Thursday


The Catalans were in La Liga action over the weekend ahead of the first of two Europa League meetings with United.

Xavi also had high praise for Marcus Rashford ahead of Thursday's fixture, picking him out as the key threat in the United side.

“He's very fast, he has a very good dribble one-v-one, and in the transition, he is very, very dangerous. 

“We need to take care of all of them but especially Rashford. He is one of the most dangerous players now in Europe.”