Manchester United vs Barcelona: United boss Erik ten Hag reveals the half-time message that sparked the 2-1 comeback win

The Red Devils fought back from a goal down to beat Barca 2-1 in the second leg of their playoff tie at Old Trafford, thanks to second-half efforts from Fred and Antony.

File photo of Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag; credit; Twitter/ @ManUtd
By Sreejith C R | Feb 24, 2023 | 3 Min Read follow icon Follow Us


Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has revealed that he urged his players to have faith in themselves during the half-time of their Europa League clash against Barcelona on Thursday. Robert Lewandowski gave an early lead to Barca from the penalty spot. But the Red Devils fought back to beat Barca 2-1 in the second leg of the playoff tie at Old Trafford, thanks to second-half efforts from Fred and Antony. The result helped United to secure a 4-3 aggregate win and qualify for the last-16 of Europe’s second tier club competition. 

Speaking after the game, the Dutch tactician revealed the half-time message that inspired his players to turn the game on its head. “I emphasised the belief, It was too flat first half. We had our spare man, Casemiro we didn’t use enough. Aaron Wan-Bissaka had a lot of space on the right side, we didn’t use enough. I think in the pressing we could be more brave. So that is what we emphasised.”

Ten Hag’s substitutions proved crucial

Apart from boosting the morale of the team, Ten Hag decided to change things up front. Antony was brought in for Wout Weghorst on the right flank, which allowed Bruno Fernandes to operate down the centre, while Jadon Sancho shifted to the left side of attack and Marcus Rashord led the line. The new system gave more pace and energy to United while going forward and Barca found it very difficult to cope with the high pressing game. 

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The 53-year-old continued: “The second was to make the sub with Antony who brought more speed in the play and who brings belief on the pitch.” When asked about the decision to make another change at half-time, just as he had done against Leicester at the weekend, Ten Hag added: “In the squad you need different types and profiles and when your time is there you have to be ready and contribute with the team. You can’t win trophies with 11, especially not nowadays. You need that squad and rotation.”

Fred and Antony struck in the second half

Two minutes into the second half, Fernandes squared the ball for Fred, whose effort from just inside the box went past Marc-Andre ter Stegen and into the bottom corner of the net.  Immediately after the goal, Antony raced his way past Andreas Christensen to get on the end of Casemiro’s long ball from the back, but the Brazilian winger’s effort went wide. It was a clear indication that the visiting defence was not comfortable with United’s blistering pace on offer. 

United found the winner 17 minutes from time, after Alejandro Garnacho and Fred saw their efforts blocked, before the ball fell nicely for Antony, and the former Ajax-man curled it past Ter Stegen into the far bottom corner, with a brilliant left-footed strike. The Red Devils have had 19 goals scored by substitutes in all competitions this season, the most of any side in Europe’s top-five leagues. Meanwhile, it was Barcelona’s first defeat since losing 3-0 to Bayern Munich in the Champions League in October.



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