Manchester United rose to the challenge at the Nou Camp by going head to head with Barcelona and looking like the better side for large stretches of the game.

The match ended 2-2 and while there were a couple of moments at the end where the Red Devils had to hang on, it felt like United should have won it.

Marcus Rashford was outstanding once again, and this was a statement performance from him, and the whole team.

Manager Erik ten Hag told the club website: “I think we dictated the game’, adding, ‘we have to finish it at Old Trafford.’

READ: Confirmed Manchester United transfers in, out, loan deals for January 2023

FC Barcelona v Manchester United - UEFA Europa League
Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

How the papers reacted to United’s performance

This was ‘just’ a Europa League play-off match and not a Champions League semi-final, but make no mistake, this was a match between two of the top teams in Europe right now.

Barcelona sit top of La Liga, while United are alive in four different competitions. Erik ten Hag has turned the trajectory of this club around, and this match sent a real message that this team is for real.

The Mail praised the performances of Marcus Rashford and Fred, commending Ten Hag’s tactical versatility, before noting: “Weghorst still has to work on his finishing.”

A report in The Times focused on how this match could be an advert for Manchester United for summer signings, running a headline: “Keep this up and even Jude Bellingham may want to join Manchester United.”

The column focused on the team spirit shown by Ten Hag’s side and the tactical acumen displayed by the manager, noting: “Erik ten Hag has turned his side into a team that top players will want to play for again.”

The Telegraph focused on Marcus Rashford, boldly claiming ‘there is no one better in world football right now’ than the Manchester United forward, who struck his 22nd goal of the season in the win.

A question was also posed over his contract situation, with his deal expiring in June 2024, noting: “The way he played on this stage will reverberate around Europe and raise questions as to whether United can hope to tie the 25-year-old – with 12 months on his contract after this season – to a new deal.”

The Guardian praised Rashford and Ten Hag, commenting: “Erik ten Hag deserves a little credit here: perhaps the first coach to recognise that a prime Rashford requires no single defined position but can simply be turned on opponents like a wind machine.”

Manchester United have it all to play for in the second leg, as part of a huge week ahead. After a league game against a resurgent Leicester this weekend, United host Barcelona, and then play the Carabao Cup final.

All this praise matters. Defeats in those games can’t take away from all the good work Erik ten Hag and Marcus Rashford have done. But it will be underlined more so if United can knock Barcelona out, and go onto win a first trophy in six years by defeating Newcastle.

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