Old Trafford was the setting for another momentous Champions league encounter as the red of Manchester took on a mustard-dyed Barcelona.
The United supporters were in full voice as the Theatre of Dreams welcomed the Spanish giants, who twice took glory from United’s hands in the 2009 and 2011 finals, for the first leg of their quarter final clash.
The United fans made themselves heard from the offset, hoping their boys could rise to the occasion with all of Europe watching. The Old Trafford faithful were also sure to give their old Liverpool tormentors, Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho a hostile reception every time they got on the ball.
The reds were slow off the mark and seemed to lack any sort of rhythm or flow in the opening stages of the tie. The Catalans maintained the lion’s share of the possession in the first half and were rewarded in the 12th minute to silence Old Trafford.
A subtle pass from midfield maestro Sergio Busquets found Lionel Messi in the box as he dinked the ball over the United defence for Suarez to header the ball into goal with the help of a fortuitous touch from Luke Shaw. The linesman originally ruled Suarez offside but VAR again came to the fore as the referee stepped in to rightfully award Barca their 1-0 lead following a review
The goal seemed to spur on the Red Devils as they soon upped the tempo and intensity of the game, Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba looked lively and linked up in dangerous positions although they were unable to find a way through the Barca defence.
The Blaugrana continued to have the bulk of the possession but their stroppy passes out the back gifted United a few chances but Lukaku and co lacked the quality to punish the Spanish side.
There was bloodshed on the half hour mark with Messi suffering a nosebleed after a robust challenge from determined Chris Smalling, no doubt trying to live up to his press conference comments.
De Gea was finally called into action just before half time after some neat footwork from Suarez gifted Coutinho the space to fire a thunderous shot on goal which could only be stopped by an outstretched De Gea leg. On the other end Portuguese fullback Diogo Dalot squandered a clear chance at the far post after sending his header well wide.
Although Barca finished the half with the goal, United looked the more menacing side, desperately determined to change the score line in the second half. The boys from Manchester applied the same tempo and pressing style they ended the first 45 with to dominate the opening stages of the second half.
The Catalans survived wave after wave of United attacks and remained resolute in defence albeit the United offense lacked any real sting. Even with the help of Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial they still lacked the quality to find an equalizer.
A chance for Barca from open play came at the hour mark with Nelson Semedo slotting a well weighted through ball to Suarez who couldn’t squeeze the ball past De Gea’s near post. Messi had the United defence on a knife’s edge with a free kick outside the box but struck the ball below the wall which De Gea was equal to it.
Arturo Vidal and Sergi Roberto came on in the 66th minute to bolster their midfield in the hopes of protecting their one-goal advantage.
Barca’s dazzling tiki-taka was saved to the end as they fizzled any United belief in equalizing in stoppage time, pinning them in their own half to preserve their lead.
Barcelona was not at their best on the night but they leave with an important away goal. United had their chances but lacked the quality to take something to Camp Nou. The Reds have it all to play for in the second leg on Tuesday, April 16, and if the result in Paris, in the round of 16, is anything to go off then there’s cause for belief.