Going into the match, majority of the Old Trafford faithful would have seen this as an intense fixture against Barcelona, but also as a bonus one, given the monumental comeback they produced versus Paris Saint-Germain in the previous round. Meanwhile, the La Liga champions were looking to make a potential statement, as they aim to achieve their sixth Champions League trophy in club history.
The 1-0 victory to the Spanish giants much sums up the match, where the hosts were unable to create chances and failed to complete a shot on target whilst the visitors were comfortable with the away goal and did not push badly for the second to take back to Camp Nou. On the other hand, the Red Devils were just about consistent defensively, but were not able to break down the opposition’s defence and were only allowed to create a few half chances from Barcelona’s sloppiness on the ball.
With United having a bit downfall over the last couple of weeks or so, including an unconvincing victory over Watford and a defeat Wolves away, it was more than important that the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men were able to put on a hard work of a performance. Despite being the underdogs and having little squad depth, there were no excuses for the players to not put on a complete display.
Now, it’s time to take a look at United’s best performers against Barcelona back on Wednesday…
Since joining Manchester United last summer for just over £50million, Fred has had some minor issues in adjusting life to the Premier League and doing enough to show he deserves to play as a regular starter.
However, over the last couple of weeks he has began to show his quality, especially in the Champions League, where he started off with playing a crucial role in the second leg against Paris Saint-Germain to now proving he is a midfielder that is active and energetic player against Barcelona.
The Brazilian international was a really busy player in the middle of the pitch, completing 64 passes at a successful rate of 86.5%, winning five of the attempted nine duels and dribbling past two players whilst in possession of the ball. With Ander Herrera and Nemanja Matic out with injures problems, it is more than fair to say that Fred had quite a good match from the start till the final whistle.
Just like Fred, Scott McTominay was another midfielder that was able to put in a good shift on both sides of the pitch and was able to keep his head up high despite the defeat. Thanks to his aerial presence and willingness to press when required, both Arthur and Sergio Busquets were unable to dictate and dominate the match to the highest level like they normally do so.
As Matic is starting to lose his legs and is suffering a massive decline throughout the season, McTominay could potentially be the long-term defensive-midfielder that the club has been looking for in recent seasons. And if not, he could be utilised as a squad player, to play in games that may need his drive and work rate, something that Darren Fletcher used to do under Sir Alex Ferguson.
As a whole, the youngster has come up with a number of bright performances this season and the one against Barcelona will be added to his collection. Being a player that came through the youth academy over the last couple of years or so, McTominay will definitely be backed by the Old Trafford faithful to have a good career at the club, whether he goes on to prove that he is good enough to be a regular starter or not.
He may not be seen as the type of centre-back that will constantly go head to head or into a physical battle with the opposition’s forwards, but Victor Lindelof has shown his pure quality on the ball as well as his leadership ability to guide the his team-mates in defence and midfield. Once he commits to being more dominant and aggressive, he will be regarded as the club’s best defender for sure.
During the Barcelona fixture on Wednesday, the 24-year-old Swede had a busy night down the right at Old Trafford, as he was playing along Chris Smalling and Luke Shaw in what looked like a back-three formation with Ashley Young and Diogo Dalot as the wing-backs. Due to this setup, the side were able to have enough protection defensively whilst intending to counter down the flanks.
Lindelof went on to complete two interceptions, three clearances, two successful duels whilst completing 33 passes at a success rate of 84.6%, evidently proving he had a lot of work to complete on and off the ball. Had Barcelona pushed for a second goal in the second half of the match, a full review would have been provided on if Lindelof is defensively composed to be a world class defender.