Uefa Champions League quarter-final second leg Barcelona 3 Manchester United 0 (4-0 on aggregate)
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted his side were outclassed by Barcelona as the Spaniards eased through to the semi-finals of the Champions League with a 3-0 win at the Camp Nou.
Two of their goals came from Lionel Messi, who has now scored 45 this season in 42 matches, and Barcelona will meet the winner of the tie between Porto and Liverpool who play on Wednesday.
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Whoever earns the right to play Barcelona in the last four will feel a deep degree of trepidation at the prospect of facing a side who are now unbeaten in 31 Champions League home ties.
United started brightly as they sought to overturn a 1-0 deficit from last week’s first leg at Old Trafford, and Marcus Rashford’s dainty lofted shot skimmed the bar in the first minute as the visitors caused some problems for the hosts’ defence. But Barca soon struck the first blow as Messi put them ahead on 16 minutes with a shot from outside of the area.
De Gea disaster
Four minutes later the Argentine doubled his side’s advantage - with assistance from David De Gea. Messi’s weak shot from the edge of the area should have presented the United goalkeeper with no problems, but he let the ball squirm under his body and into the net.
That blunder shattered United’s self-belief and although they kept on running all night, they were chasing the shadows of a Barcelona side who underlined their superiority with a third goal on the hour mark.
It was the best of the lot with Philippe Coutinho’s exquisite strike one of those goals that will linger in the memory for many a year.
“We were a bit cold and nervous in the first five minutes,” admitted Messi. “But afterwards we took control and played spectacular football.”
Solskjaer took the defeat squarely on the chin, telling reporters: “They were a couple of levels above over the two games.”
The Norwegian’s immediate task is to lift his squad for the Premier League run-in. Currently sixth in the table, United have three daunting matches in the next ten days: away at Everton and then home games against Manchester City and Chelsea.
Realistically, if United want to finish in the top four and qualify for next season’s Champions League, they will need maximum points from the trio of games.
“We want to play these games again next year so we have a massive week coming up,” Solskjaer said. “There is no point dwelling on what could have been, we have to focus on that week.”
Work in progress
While he praised the brilliance of Messi, Solskjaer was more concerned with what United must do to regain their place among the European elite.
“We have to aspire to get to that level of Barcelona,” he said. “We can get there but we have loads of work to do. If we want to get back to Man Utd’s true level, true traditions, we have to challenge Barcelona.”
Asked how that will happen, Solskjaer replied: “We have got a rebuilding job but that starts with the coaches and the players, and one or two additions to the squad will happen in the summer.”
Champions League fixtures and results
Tuesday 16 April: quarter-final second-leg results
- Barcelona 3 Manchester United 0 (4-0 on aggregate)
- Juventus 1 Ajax 2 (2-3 on aggregate)
Wednesday 17 April: quarter-final second leg fixtures
- Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur (0-1 on aggregate; 8pm live on BT Sport 2)
- FC Porto vs. Liverpool (0-2 on aggregate; 8pm live on BT Sport 3)
Quarter-final first-leg results and reports
- Liverpool 2 FC Porto 0
- Tottenham Hotspur 1 Manchester City 0
- Manchester United 0 Barcelona 1
- Ajax 1 Juventus 1
Champions League semi-final draw
The semi-final first legs will be on 30 April and 1 May, and the second legs are on 7/8 May.
- Tottenham Hotspur or Manchester City vs. Ajax
- Barcelona vs. Liverpool or Porto
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