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In A Game That Could Have Gotten Away, United Showed Surprising Maturity

In A Game That Could Have Gotten Away, United Showed Surprising Maturity
By Gary Connaughton

In the opening minutes of Manchester United's game with Barcelona tonight, it felt like they were on for a hiding. Barcelona were stroking the ball around beautifully, not giving the United defence a moment to breath. When they opened the scoring in the 12th minute, it genuinely felt like the home side had not touched the ball.

It was a poor goal to give away too, with Luke Shaw showing an astounding lack of awareness to leave Luis Suarez free at the far post. At that point in the game, it looked as though Barcelona could rack up a massive score.

The Spaniards were showing their experience, and it looked difficult to see how United could grow into the game.

And yet, as the first half developed, the home side did just that. They began to get the ball down and play a bit, launching a few attacks of their own. Nothing spectacular, but enough to keep Lionel Messi and co on their toes.

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They would have looked far more impressive were it not for the fact that Romelu Lukaku was a complete non-factor up front. He failed to hold the ball up and when United got the ball into the penalty area, he was rarely there to be seen. The fact he lasted to the 68th minute of the match was massively surprising.

After the break, there was a noticeable decrease in the amount of chances created by Barcelona. Much of that came down to an off night from some of their big names, but they were offered little encouragement from the opposition.

In truth, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer seemed pretty content to let this one finish 1-0. Was it the right decision? Maybe. The Norwegian spoke a number of times in the build up to this game about being in the tie going to the Nou Camp, and that is certainly the case.

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While the win in Paris in the last round was inspired, they did not want to find themselves in that position once again. That performance will offer massive encouragement heading into the game next week, with United knowing they are capable of upsetting the odds. History may be against his side, but that won't bother them.

None of this is to say United performed brilliantly tonight. They didn't, but they were pragmatic in a game that could have easily got away from them. Solskjaer showed a maturity tonight that was not there in the loss to PSG in the last round. He realised that the tie would not be won tonight, but it could have been lost.

They made things tight and didn't lose their heads chasing an equaliser. It is a 180 minute tie after all.

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Barcelona were still the better team and the English side will need to be more adventurous next week. Bigger performances will be needed from the likes of Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford, and it is likely that Barcelona will improve too.

They will have nothing to fear, however. The Nou Camp is a tough place to go, but you can get a result there. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer knows that better than most.

SEE ALSO: Watch: Brian Kerr Calls Out The 'Spoofology' Heard In FAI Oireachtas Hearing

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