Champions League: Manchester United 0-1 Barcelona, 5 Talking Points
- Barcelona earned a slender 1-0 win over Manchester United in their UCL QF first leg tie. Here are five talking points from their victory...
Barcelona recorded a slender yet important 1-0 victory during their Champions League quarter-final first leg against Manchester United at Old Trafford last night to take an away goal with them, ahead of next week's return leg in Spain.
Barca, who are 11 points clear atop La Liga, were far from their best but one moment of quality separated the two sides in Manchester. Lionel Messi's clever pass into Luis Suarez saw the Uruguayan head back across goal, with Luke Shaw inadvertently getting the last touch as the effort trickled into the far corner after 13 minutes. Despite initially ruling the goal out for offside, it was awarded after VAR review showed Suarez was onside as the ball was played into his path.
Despite flashes of their counter-attacking threat, United failed to register a single shot on target - the first time that's happened in a Champions League home game since Opta started recording match statistics back in 2003.
Ernesto Valverde's men have only lost once at home all season, against Real Betis back in November, so Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men certainly have their work cut out if they are to replicate their Paris heroics in the second leg. With all of that in mind, here's a look at five talking points from a telling evening's work in Manchester:
#5 Valverde's second-half substitutions almost backfired
With a one-goal lead to protect and his side struggling to balance in midfield, Valverde opted for the conservative approach of replacing Philippe Coutinho and Arthur with Arturo Vidal and Sergi Roberto. Arthur was one of Barca's better performers and Coutinho still possessed an attacking threat even though his influence on the game weaned. So why not replace the clear weak link in midfield, Busquets, who had already been booked?
Why not try something different and utilise the more creative subs available, like Malcom or Ousmane Dembele? The pair would have added width and blistering pace at a time where the visitors needed to stretch United. Valverde's bravery probably would have resulted in a killer second goal at Old Trafford.
Instead, he brought on the error-prone, short-tempered Vidal, who got himself booked pretty soon afterwards and was committing fouls like they were going out of fashion. Rather than being a calming presence in midfield, the experienced Chilean was reckless and caused panic among his teammates - something United could sense in their attempts at a comeback.
Roberto made a few intelligent darting runs into the final third and having been fed by Messi, probably should have done better to double their lead - but his decision-making was poor. Vidal almost gave away a penalty for a reckless attempt at challenging Chris Smalling, jumping awkwardly without playing the ball in the box and Valverde's safe substitute decisions nearly cost Barca their slender win.