As Champions League quarter-final performances go, Barcelona’s at Manchester United probably wasn’t far off of the Roma horror show from exactly a year ago.
The only difference is that they somehow managed to ensure that the Red Devils didn’t have a shot on target in a UCL game for the first time in 2005, whilst grabbing a precious away goal to take back to the Camp Nou.
What a missed opportunity for Manchester United. Barcelona unimpressive and rarely threatened. Should've scored at least one. The crossing from the right wing was diabolical.— Liam Canning (@LiamPaulCanning) April 10, 2019
That will be of little consolation to the travelling band of Cules, and those that watched on from home.
Barca looked brittle in defence, with Clement Lenglet having one of his worst games of the season alongside Gerard Pique.
Arthur and Philippe Coutinho didn’t offer an awful lot and were rightly hooked on the hour mark, whilst Sergio Busquets looked unusually nervous in possession.
Even Lionel Messi failed to inspire for long periods, with the visitors’ play incredibly sloppy and not close to the level that we know they can play at.
Frankly, it wasn’t the performance of potential European champions, and against better sides, the Catalans will surely be punished.
The big winners from tonight's game at Old Trafford were Liverpool. Can't see Barca or United living with them in the semi-final (when they get past Porto...)— Mark Ogden (@MarkOgden_) April 10, 2019
That they weren’t gives Valverde hope that, in front of 99,000 of their adoring supporters, they won’t play that badly again and will go through.
United have a few experienced campaigners in their ranks, but the likes of Scott McTominay et al, won’t have known pressure like it, and that’s where Barca must ram home their advantage.
The Blaugranes need each and every player to step things up another gear in order to ensure a smooth passage into the semi-finals.
How many times did Barça hit MU on the break with ROBERTO carrying the ball Valverde acting as if Dembele & Malcom weren’t available— BarçaNation (@FCBNation93) April 10, 2019
For the passes to be much crisper. The movement to open up the passing lanes much more incisive. The crosses much more accurate and the finishing much more decisive.
Of all the players, only Gerard Pique, on his return to Old Trafford, and Marc-Andre ter Stegen can hold their heads high.
It’s largely thanks to the former that his side retain the lead in the tie going into the second leg, but an early United goal - which they’ll absolutely look for - will change everything.
Solskjaer will learn from that. Showed Barca way too much respect with the tactics and five at the back in the first twenty minutes. Then when they scored we pressed and ran the game. Need to do that from minute one from now on— Mark Goldbridge (@markgoldbridge) April 10, 2019
Valverde too has to up the ante, to get his tactics and personnel spot on or risk seeing his team depart the premier European competition at the quarter-final stage for the fourth season in a row.
Seeing how static United’s full-backs were at times, it’s a second leg that’s crying out for a cameo from Malcom too.
Frankly, the less said about Wednesday night the better. Let’s dust ourselves down and move on. Quickly...