For the first twenty minutes, this Champions League quarterfinal match looked like a laugher. Barcelona got their away goal in the 12th minute off an unlucky Luke Shaw deflection and it seemed the rout was on. Starting with three at the back — although, considering Barca had close to 90% possession in the early going, it was more of a 5-3-2 — did not work.
Thankfully, once Ole Gunnar Solskjaer switched to a back four, the Reds noticeably improved. With just a bit more composure in front of goal, this could’ve been a totally different result. The second leg should be a good one.
David De Gea: 7
Several great saves, highlighted by blocking a Coutinho screamer with his outstretched foot. Not at fault for the own goal.
Ashley Young: 3
How he lasted the whole ninety minutes remains the biggest mystery of the night. A performance full of wayward crosses and passes into the box. Solskjaer should’ve hauled Young off at halftime.
Victor Lindelöf: 6
A failed clearance set up Coutinho’s chance, but DDG bailed Lindelof out. He played well beyond that one misstep.
Chris Smalling: 6
Smalling did, in fact, bring it. He bloodied Messi with a robust challenge in the first half and just generally threw himself about all night long. A few lapses of concentration, but kept the Barcelona frontline quiet.
Luke Shaw: 3
Rough night. Out of sorts in a back three, Shaw picked up a quick yellow card for obstructing Messi and deflected Luis Suarez’s header past De Gea. Better after switching to a four-man backline, but he’ll miss the second leg thanks to that caution.
Diogo Dalot: 5
Played out of position on the left, but still got on the ball and looked dangerous at times. Dalot’s night, though, will be remembered for his horror miss shortly before the break. He made a total mess of a free header, wasting United’s best chance to score. At the very least, put it on goal and force a save.
Scott McTominay: 8
Another strong performance from the 22-year-old. Plus, he showed there’s a bit of on-ball skill to complement his strength and determination. Late on, McTominay fed a nice ball into Martial that required a strong interception by Gerard Pique.
His best performance in a red shirt. As the link between defense and attack, Fred avoided the big mistake — unlike at Wolves — and moved the ball around well. Solid defense on Messi, too.
Paul Pogba: 6
A step in the right direction, but still a quiet night for United’s most talented player. Pogba came close to setting Rashford free on the break a few times. In the final minutes, he gave away a needless free kick on the edge of the box that nearly allowed Messi to double Barcelona’s lead.
Marcus Rashford: 7
His speed exposed a few cracks in the Barca defense. Whistled a free kick just wide of goal in the 5th minute and delivered an inch-perfect cross onto Dalot’s head for the would-be equalizer. On the downside, no shots on goal.
Romelu Lukaku: 5
Disappointing stuff from Big Rom. He didn’t receive much service, but also didn’t provide much movement.
Anthony Martial (Sub, 68’): 4
Almost put through on goal, but a poor touch allowed Pique’s recovery.
Jesse Lingard (Sub, 74’): 4
The yellow card was his only moment of note.
Andreas Pereira (Sub, 85’): 6
Normally don’t score late subs, but Pereira was everywhere during his short time on the pitch. Kept pushing forward until the final whistle.