Talking Points: Lionel Messi exposes disorder in Manchester United ranks with industrious display
Written by: Neelav Chakravarti
The Catalan giants will face Liverpool or FC Porto in the semi-finals.
It was a Barcelona masterclass, as Ernesto Valverde's men coasted past an uninspiring Manchester United side, at Camp Nou, to secure their place in the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League. Having taken a 0-1 lead at Old Trafford, the Catalans extended their lead in the second-leg, courtesy of a brace from Lionel Messi and a goal from Philippe Coutinho.
Having ousted United on the basis of a 4-0 aggregate, the Catalan outfit will face either Liverpool or FC Porto in the next round.
Watch: Barcelona 3-0 Manchester United
Here are the talking points from the encounter:
5. It was a tactically astute performance from the LaLiga giants
It was a classic performance from Valverde's side, as they put in a typical Barcelona display. As it is in every fixture for the Catalan giants, their opponents tested them during the opening stages, with the likes Sergio Busquets and Arthur maintaining their calm. Just like we saw against Lyon or any other team this season, the Blaugrana began to control the game after the opening proceedings.
Ivan Rakitic, arguably, was the best player in the middle of the park for both teams, spraying passes, and doing the dirty work. What really stood out was the way Barcelona recovered after the first few minutes, and took complete control. With The Red Devils having tired out after the opening minutes, Valverde's side dominated proceedings and won the game in what turned out to be a rather one-sided affair.
4. Scott McTominay can become the 'next Darren Fletcher' for Manchester United
The midfielder was one of the better players for Manchester United
It was a coming-of-age performance by the 22-year-old Scottish international, but he was undeniably one of the best players for United over both the legs. Having achieved a 92% passing accuracy in the second-leg, the youngster was a typical Manchester United midfielder; somewhat reminiscent of the Sir Alex Ferguson days.
Against bigger and much more experienced players, McTominay was winning duels, going for 50/50 tackles, and went head-to-head with his opponents. In total, the Lancaster man won eight duels, and made a few successful interceptions. He paid off Ole Gunnar Solskjær's trust, with a display which was similar to Darren Fletcher. Let's not deny that Fletcher was impressive for United, but it was only his injuries which hampered his time with the club. Since last season, McTominay has proved his mettle to the Old Trafford faithful, and is slowly becoming a central midfielder which The Red Devils need.
3. Philippe Coutinho has silenced his critics
Coutinho scored an absolute screamer past David de Gea
The Brazilian has been in the middle of transfer rumours for quite sometime; credit goes to Barcelona fans, and the media. The former Liverpool man was highly involved for the 81-minutes he played.
For the past few months, people have been criticising the former Inter Milan player on the basis of his work ethic, and about his suitability with the Barca DNA. Also, the good form of Ousmane Dembele and Malcom have added the pressure on him. But Coutinho produced one of his best performances in a Blaugrana shirt against United, at the Camp Nou.
He has built a decent understanding with Jordi Alba on the left, and is finally showing signs that he is comfortable with his playing position in the starting XI. His screamer against De Gea was completely astounding, and then his celebration later was a class apart.
2. Ole Gunnar Solskjær needs to seriously work on his team during the pre-season
Since Solskjær's arrival, it is true that Pogba has become his side's talisman; which should have been the case since his arrival (but Jose Mourinho had other plans). The Frenchman was average against Messi and co. It is true that he is one of the most talented central midfielders in the world, but the Mourinho era seems to have seriously halted his progress. Although, the bad days over, and The Baby-faced Assassin is at the helm, Pogba still has a lot of work to do. The 2018 FIFA World Cup winner lost the midfield battle to Rakitic, Busquets and Arthur in the first-half itself.
Jesse Lingard was basically invisible throughout his time on the pitch, like he was veiled by an invisibility cloak! It is true that Anthony Martial is a very talented attacker, but he is already 23-years-old, and his display against Barca proved his critics right. Marcus Rashford was a bright spot for the English side, and could have played better, if given better service. Although he did strike the upright during the opening stages.
David de Gea is undeniably one of the best custodians in the world, but then his career has been filled with mistakes like the one last night against Messi, which led to the second goal. The entire backline needs to be worked on, with a new centre-back in the cards.
1. Lionel Messi can win the UCL title single-handedly for Barcelona
The main difference maker last night was one man in the field - Lionel Messi. The Argentine was at his magical best, drifting everywhere; be it down the left or right or middle. He scored his first goal after cutting in from the right (albeit a Ashley Young mistake and nutmeg on Fred), meanwhile his second goal was scored after cutting in from the left.
Watch: Lionel Messi's first goal
The Argentine was at his industrious and magical best, weaving past the United midfield and defence, just like any other day. Unlike other matches this season, Messi was running everywhere in the final third, and was present in almost every good thing Barcelona did.
He attempted multiple shots, and mazey dribbles to win the game single-handedly; which could be the scenario if Barcelona win the Champions League title.
Published: Wed Apr 17, 2019 02:22 PM IST