Five talking points from Old Trafford
After United were beaten by Luke Shaw's early own goal, we take a look at some of the key talking points coming out of the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final at Old Trafford…
RESPECT FOR THE OPPOSITION
Perhaps, at first, United were too passive and paid too much respect to the opposition. However, a juddering Chris Smalling challenge on Lionel Messi, which left the Argentinian bloodied, lifted the crowd in the first period and there was cause for optimism for longer periods of the second half. That said, the way Barcelona kept possession to see out the closing stages was worrying as we were simply unable to get close enough to Marc-Andre Ter Stegen’s goal. There is no disputing the Catalans are an excellent side with world-class players.
Old Trafford enjoyed former Liverpool striker Luis Suarez’s furious reaction to Barcelona's early goal initially being disallowed for offside. Unfortunately, it proved short lived as, moments after it seemed play would just restart, Italian referee Gianluca Rocchi acted on advice from his fellow countrymen watching on TV to overturn the decision and hand the visitors the lead. It’s a new age we are entering with the video technology and, for all of the sour grapes as the goal was valid, it means watching the game live has become an altogether different experience, where you cannot trust initial judgements and what you are witnessing. Manchester City were awarded a penalty which nobody had apparently even appealed for, when they played Tottenham this week. To be fair, VAR worked in our favour in the last round against PSG of course.
HOMEGROWN LADS PLAY THEIR PARTOle Gunnar Solskjaer fielded three Academy graduates in his XI and Scott McTominay, Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford appreciated the intensity and enormity of the occasion. McTominay was undaunted by his illustrious rivals, snapping into challenges on Messi and the Barcelona midfielders. Pogba made the most of his touches with some creative passing while Rashford took on long-range shots and looked bright as he strived to lift the home fans after the early setback. McTominay emerged as arguably our star man, showing maturity and confidence, while another homegrown product, Jesse Lingard, came off the bench.
Shaw, who was unlucky to have the own goal against his name, picked up a yellow card in the first half for barging Messi over, which means he is now out of the second leg at the Nou Camp due to suspension. He is also set to start a two-match ban in Saturday’s Premier League encounter against West Ham United, meaning a change in defence. Sergio Busquets was arguably fortunate after conceding three possible bookable offences in the opening period but kept things in check in the second half. As the game wore on, cautions were handed out for tackles that, on closer inspection, barely seemed fouls with Lingard particularly unfortunate in this respect.
THE TIE IS STILL ALIVE
We came back from two goals down to PSG remember and this is not quite as big a mountain to climb, even if we will have to improve considerably to score twice in the Nou Camp. It’s something we have done before, which we all know – against Barca and Bayern Munich – and all hope should not be lost. It will have to be a tactical masterclass next Tuesday but, after conceding so early, the fact the visitors could not add to the priceless away goal does give some cause for optimism.
The opinions expressed in this article are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Manchester United.
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