Manchester United produced a scintillating fight back to beat Barcelona 2-1 at Old Trafford on Thursday and advance to the Europa League round of 16 4-3 on aggregate.
After a memorable first leg ended 2-2, Man United fell behind in the tie and on the night when Robert Lewandowski’s 18th-minute penalty beat David de Gea after Bruno Fernandes had grabbed at Alejandro Balde in the box for a soft spot kick.
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But United were rejuvenated following the half-time interval and the introduction of Antony in place of Wout Weghorst. The hosts equalised in the 47th minute through a fine finish from the impressive Fred and then sent the fired-up Old Trafford crowd wild when fellow Brazilian Antony guided home a classy finish in the 72nd.
The win was Man United’s first over Barcelona since the Champions League semifinals of 2008 and is another major achievement for manager Erik ten Hag in his first season at the club.
United will now look to make it a week to remember when they face Newcastle United in the Carabao Cup final at Wembley Stadium in London on Sunday.
Barcelona, meanwhile, are left to focus on their quest to win LaLiga after having now fallen at the first hurdles in both the Champions League and Europa League under Xavi Hernandez this season.
The draw for the Europa League round of 16 will be made at 11 a.m. GMT (6 a.m. ET) on Friday. Man United will meet one of the seeded teams who bypassed the playoff round after winning their groups.
“The belief of the team is always there,” Fernandes told BT Sport. “The belief of the fans, they push us through difficult moments.
“We have made great comebacks, the club is made also by that. In the past we have done a lot like this result.”
Both sides have improved a great deal under their new coaches this season, with some of the football in the first leg testament to that and setting the tie up nicely for the return fixture under the lights at Old Trafford.
United started well with captain Fernandes denied by a superb Marc-Andre ter Stegen save after being picked out by Casemiro.
Then came the moment that had Old Trafford united in incredulity as referee Clement Turpin pointed to the spot, a decision Fernandes could not believe. De Gea got a hand to Lewandowski’s penalty, but could not claw it out.
The Polish striker has now scored 25 goals in 30 appearances across all competitions for the LaLiga leaders this season, the 12th successive campaign in which he has netted 25 or more goals at club level.
United did not create a chance of note for the remainder of the first half and were grateful for two goal-saving challenges from Casemiro to keep the score at 1-0.
But whatever coach Erik ten Hag said at the break had an immediate effect as Fernandes found Fred to level.
De Gea produced a world-class save to tip over a Jules Kounde header but United were now firmly in the ascendancy and went in front with a finish from Antony that was right out of the top drawer.
Substitutes have made a huge difference for United this term, with 19 goals scored by replacements in all competitions, the most of any side from the big five European leagues in 2022-23.
The hosts survived nervy late moments but saw out the victory to end a five-game winless run against the Spanish side.
Information from Reuters was used in this report.