Erik ten Hag hails impact of Antony and Alejandro Garnacho as Manchester United knock Barcelona out
Erik ten Hag hailed the impact of substitutes Antony and Alejandro Garnacho as Manchester United came from behind to knock Barcelona out of the Europa League.
Robert Lewandowski’s penalty put Barcelona in front in the second leg at Old Trafford, but goals from Fred and Antony turned it around for the hosts and gave them a 4-3 win on aggregate.
United now move on to the last-16 of the Europa League, while they also have a Carabao Cup final against Newcastle on Sunday to look forward to.
Ten Hag saw his side struggle for much of the first-half against Barcelona, resulting in the Dutchman bringing on Antony at half-time. His introduction, and that of Garnacho with 25 minutes remaining, gave United a huge lift.
”That was one of the parts of the gameplan,” Ten Hag said.
“We know if we can bring Antony or Garnacho, you get in the wide areas speed, running behind and dribbles. You get belief.
“They are so brave, both of them. They don’t fear anyone, especially at the Stretford End. They are just running behind and it gives a boost to the team.”
United are now unbeaten in 18 matches at Old Trafford across all competitions, last suffering a defeat on home soil at the start of September when Real Sociedad beat them in the Europa League.
It is still possible that United, without a trophy since 2017, end the season with four. Along with the Carabao Cup and their run in Europe, they have an FA Cup fifth-round clash against West Ham to come and are five points off Premier League leaders Arsenal.
Asked about his side’s response to falling behind against Barcelona, Ten Hag put that resilience down to key characters in the squad.
“We have some great personalities in the team,” Ten Hag said.
“Like Rapha and Licha Martinez. As I said already, Antony doesn’t fear, Garnacho doesn’t fear anyone. Bruno also, Casemiro of course. We have some great personalities.
“Even when you get setbacks, they move on. They carry on and they are resilient. They want to get the result and if you believe in that, even when you concede a cheap penalty you have to go on.
“You can turn around such a game. We know that. When you win a big game like this after 1-0 down, difficult situation, this is good motivation in the season.