Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Mike Phelan were at the Nou Camp last night to witness Barcelona take a major step towards securing La Liga title with a 2-0 win over nearest rivals Atletico Madrid. The Manchester United management duo were in attendance as late Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi goals gave Barca the all-important three points.
However, it was not plain-sailing for Barcelona who played against ten men for the majority of the game after Diego Costa’s sending off. Barca played the ball about nicely but were often caught out on the break and failed to break down a typically rigid Atletico Madrid side. Diego Simeone was adventurous in the second half, bringing on Alvaro Morata for left-back Filipe Luis, knowing his side had to win.
Unfortunately for the Argentine, his bravery did not pay off and Suarez made the breakthrough before Messi added a classy second. The title is now surely theirs but attention turns to midweek when Ernesto Valverde will take his team to Old Trafford for the first leg.
Solskjaer will have gathered a whole host of information from yesterday’s game but his side still face a huge challenge to progress over the two legs. Here are three things Ole will have picked up yesterday.
Barcelona are not perfect
The Catalans have been impressive this season but on several occasions, they have looked shaky. Atleti were arguably the better team before the sending off and eve after that they held firm and looked dangerous. Solskjaer will need his attackers to be clinical in front of goal if they are to hurt this Barca defence and pile the pressure on when they get the chance.
United will have to be compact
Atleti’s success last night was a result of their discipline and strict shape. This is a key feature of Diego Simeone’s side and Solskjaer would be wise to try and limit the space between defence and midfield. This Barcelona team can hurt you when they get into the final third so United will have to stifle them in the centre of the park.
Lionel Messi is containable
For 85 minutes, Atletico Madrid dealt with the greatest player on the planet well enough, limiting him to a handful of shots. Messi frequently drops into midfield and plays wonderful passes but if you can limit his space near goal, you can just about get by. He still scored, obviously, but Solskjaer will have seen a way to prevent him running riot on Wednesday night.
This game is Manchester United’s biggest test this season and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s biggest test as a manager. He’s at the wheel, but can he steer them safely past Barcelona?