When the two sides tied 2-2 in the first leg of their Europa League play-off tie on Thursday night, Barcelona manager Xavi complimented Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag.
Ten Hag’s men got out to a strong start and had a good first half, but they fell down in the 50th minute. Marcos Alonso, a former Chelsea defender, scored from close range. Despite falling behind, United recovered admirably and leveled the game two minutes later through Marcus Rashford.
The Reds took a 2-1 lead with a low-driven cross from Rashford that deflected off Jules Kounde and beyond Marc-Andre ter Stegen in the Barcelona goal. United appeared to be on their way to a spectacular triumph at Camp Nou, but Raphinha equalized in the 76th minute.
United will host Barcelona at Old Trafford for the second leg of the contest next Thursday, with the score locked at 2-2. With the away goals rule no longer in effect, the victor of the rematch advances.
Xavi was full of praise for Ten Hag and his team after the game, stating that United is “coming back,” while also insisting that the Reds made it difficult for the hosts throughout the game.
“That was a really challenging game, a really difficult game with a lot of intensity, passion, and rhythm,” Xavi said to BT Sport. “We should be proud since we competed admirably till the end. We had two chances to win, but we played today against a top European squad.
“Manchester, I believe, is making a comeback, and they exhibited their greatest version today. We compete extremely well, we must be proud, and we must now compete well at Old Trafford.”
He went on to say: “I believe both clubs are in roughly the same situation, in which we are returning. I congratulated Ten Hag today because he is doing very well, and they are Manchester United, so sure, it may be a final, semi-final, or quarter-final in the future of the Champions League, but we are now in the Europa League.
“We’re coming back, and both teams gave their best performance today.”