Manchester United bowed out of the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday after a 4-0 aggregate defeat to Barcelona.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side were outclassed for much of the second leg in the Nou Camp, losing 3-0 on the night following their narrow loss in Manchester last week.
Attention now turns back to the race for a Champions League qualification spot which, for those interested in United’s Fantasy assets for the season run-in, can only be a positive regarding rotation and managed game-time.
The Red Devils’ double-header against Huddersfield Town and Cardiff City in Gameweeks 37 and 38 certainly appeals, with their participation in European competition now at an end (the Champions League semi-finals are scheduled to take place around those fixtures).
Whether many FPL managers will take a punt on a United asset or two for their upcoming Double Gameweek against Everton and Manchester City is another question, of course, given the calibre of the opposition and their so-so form.
We assess their latest display in the Scout Notes article below.
Barcelona 3-0 Manchester United
Manchester United’s current B-list status in European football was underscored on Tuesday evening as they fell to a 3-0 defeat in the Nou Camp.
There is no disgrace in losing to Barcelona, of course, particularly when Lionel Messi is in full stride.
The Argentinean highlighted the gulf in class between the two teams with a virtuoso display, scoring on two occasions and causing plenty of problems for United’s makeshift, ramshackle defence.
The visitors actually made a bright start before Messi’s two-goal salvo effectively killed the tie after just 20 minutes, with Phillippe Coutinho finishing the scoring with an excellent curling effort in the second half.
Marcus Rashford (£7.4m) struck the bar with a toe-poke from a fine Paul Pogba (£8.7m) pass before the England striker called Marc-Andre ter Stegen into action with a scuffed effort from distance.
Barcelona had an early spot-kick award overruled after VAR intervention but it was a positive opening quarter of an hour for United, as Solskjaer was keen to stress after the game:
We did well to get here and we could see the difference between the two teams. The quality of finishing was outstanding. We started well for the first 15 minutes and we thought we’ve got something here, and then in four minutes they scored two goals which made it so hard.
The attitude was right. We knew we were fighting against a good team with good players. We know there’s work to do. We’ve said all along that this won’t change overnight and the next few years will be massive to get to the level teams like Barcelona are at.
Messi capitalised on poor play from Ashley Young (£5.7m) to open the scoring on 16 minutes before swiftly doubling Barca’s lead with an effort that squirmed under the body of David de Gea (£5.7m).
Solskjaer backed his under-fire goalkeeper after full-time, saying:
That’s unfortunate with goalkeepers. When you make an error it can get highlighted and that’ll be remembered tonight. But he made some fantastic saves as well, which all in all, his contribution to the team is good but sometimes that happens in football.
From the point of Messi’s opener, United didn’t have another attempt from inside the Barcelona box until substitute Alexis Sanchez‘s (£10.0m) late header drew a superb save out of ter Stegen.
Pogba tested the home goalkeeper from distance while Jesse Lingard (£6.7m) whistled a rising effort over ter Stegen’s bar but attacking forays were few and far between once Messi had put the tie to bed after 20 minutes.
Lingard and Rashford dovetailed between the right flank and a more central position to little effect, while Anthony Martial (£7.2m) was disappointing (and looked borderline disinterested) on the left-hand side of a 4-3-3/4-3-1-2.
Having lined up as part a deep-lying two against West Ham on Saturday, Pogba was back on the left of a central midfield three in Catalonia but had no real impact on the game and both of his shots came from well outside the Barcelona box.
With Luke Shaw (£5.0m) suspended, Young was moved over to left-back with fairly disastrous consequences while Victor Lindelof (£5.0m) shifted across to right-back to allow Phil Jones (£5.1m) and Chris Smalling (£5.6m) to continue their unconvincing partnership at centre-half.
It needs to be stressed that United won’t face a team like Barcelona (or a player like Messi) every week but the Red Devils do face City and Chelsea in the next two Gameweeks and were far from convincing even in recent victories over Southampton, Watford and West Ham.
It is now nine matches without a clean sheet for Solskjaer’s side in all competitions, which will be of interest to owners of Sergio Aguero (£11.7m), Raheem Sterling (£11.5m) et al ahead of the Manchester derby next week.
Whether their European exit can refocus their efforts on the Premier League remains to be seen – if United can swiftly recapture the form they showed in Solskjaer’s honeymoon period, then their final two fixtures of the season will firmly enter Fantasy managers’ thoughts.
The Norwegian said:
We want to play these [Champions League] games again next year, so we have a massive week coming up with Everton, City and Chelsea.
They’re disappointed but there’s no point dwelling on what could have been. It could have been different if we had started better and we got the first goal but now we have to concentrate on next week.
Romelu Lukaku (£10.8m) may get more of a look-in this weekend after only being thrown on as a late substitute, while Solskjaer welcomed back Sanchez from injury and suggested the Chilean will have a part to play in the final month of 2018/19.
The United boss said:
Alexis has been injured now since the start of March so he’s been out for six weeks. It was important that he got 15 minutes on the pitch and for his mentality as well – he knows his knee is okay. He was close to getting a goal.
Hopefully, he can give us a bit towards the end of the season so we can push to get into the top four.
Manchester United XI (4-3-3): De Gea; Jones, Lindelof, Smalling, Young; McTominay, Fred, Pogba; Lingard (Sanchez 80′), Rashford (Lukaku 73′), Martial (Dalot 65′).