Champions League: 3 things Manchester United should do to beat Barcelona in the second leg
Manchester United will look to climb another mountain when they face Barcelona in the Champions League quarter-final second leg clash at the Camp Nou next week. The Red Devils lost to the Catalan giants by a solitary goal at Old Trafford, with Luke Shaw's own-goal being the only difference between the teams.
Barcelona are nearly impossible to beat at their home ground but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has learned many things from the first leg defeat and United have to play out of their skin if they want to have any chance of upsetting the Spanish giants in the return leg. Here are 3 things Solskjaer should do to overturn their fate.
Giving Pogba more freedom
The Frenchman has been one of United's best performers this season. He has seen a resurgence since Solskjaer took over as United's new manager in mid-December. He has been directly involved in 20 goals for the club in the Premier League alone.
However, he seems to be back to his poor and inconsistent self as he has contributed just a single assist and no goals in his last 10 outings. Many criticised Jose Mourinho for restricting Pogba's play due to the former manager's defensive tactics.
Now Solskjaer seems to emulate Mourinho's cautious approach which is hindering Pogba's offensive prowess. It could be better if Solskjaer plays the former Juventus star as an attacking midfielder who will dictate United's swift counter-attacks at the Camp Nou.
The 26-year-old is known for his excellent vision and sublime long passes. Hence, he would provide much better support to Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford up front. On the other hand, Fred and Scott McTominay could be positioned as defensive midfielders behind the Frenchman to drive away Barca's attacks.
Giving Jones or Bailly a chance
Solskjaer made a risky decision by playing Luke Shaw as a left centre-back in his 3-5-2 formation. Unfortunately, his plan seemed to backfire as Shaw scored an own-goal and received a yellow card afterwards. That being said, Shaw was mostly solid and the own-goal was no fault of his own.
But the England international will not be available for the second leg due to suspension. This could be the right time for Solskjaer to give a chance to Phil Jones or Eric Bailly to cover the left centre-back position. The 3-5-2 formation has seemed to be effective to keep Barcelona's attackers quiet.
Players such as Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez did not get many opportunities to score at Old Trafford. Hence, Solskjaer could use this formation again, and replace Shaw with either Bailly or Jones.
Jones has been decent since Solskjaer took over, despite the defender's woeful record of committing errors in the past. His improved form under the Norwegian was the key reason behind United handing him a new contract in February.
Bailly, on the other hand, is yet to realise his true potential at Old Trafford. But the Ivorian is a fast-paced defender, who could keep up with Messi and company. Hence, either of the two should start at the Camp Nou.
Replacing Ashley Young with Darmian
It is no secret that Manchester United faithful are mad at Young due to his uninspiring display as a right wing-back against Barcelona. It could be best for Solskjaer to use Matteo Darmian instead of the former Aston Villa star. Darmian might be starving for game time but his stats have been impressive whenever he has played.
The Italian is better than Young in defensive aspects. He has recorded a solid 2.4 tackles, 1.4 intercepts, and 3.2 clearances per game, while his English counterpart has only been better in interception (1.9 per game) from the above mentioned 3 aspects.
Barca would surely bombard United with relentless attacks at the Camp Nou. Hence, Darmian could be an important key for the Red Devils to keep the Catalans at bay. Diogo Dalot, on the other hand, could play again as United's left wing-back.