• The Red Devils have severely underperformed at Old Trafford in Europe’s elite club competition this season.
• The Catalan giants nicked a crucial away goal in their quarter-final first leg when Luke Shaw inadvertently turned Luis Suarez’s header into his own net inside 12 minutes
While Ole Gunnar Solskjaer managed to pull off the great escape against Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16 of the Champions League, questions still remained over Manchester United’s home form from the first leg against the Parisians.
The Red Devils have severely underperformed at Old Trafford in Europe’s elite club competition this season – especially when it comes to going forward. And while Barcelona may be a different proposition when compared to a weakened PSG side without Neymar, United’s home woes continued on Wednesday night when they failed to find the back of the net again – the fourth time this season in Europe.
The Catalan giants nicked a crucial away goal in their quarter-final first leg when Luke Shaw inadvertently turned Luis Suarez’s header into his own net inside 12 minutes. While failing to keep a clean sheet against Ernesto Valverde’s men is nothing to be ashamed of, United will be disappointed with their inability to register a single shot on target throughout the entire 90 minutes.
The Premier League side’s first real chance at goal came when Marcus Rashford had a one-man wall to beat from a free kick after Sergio Busquets brought down Scott McTominay outside the Barcelona penalty area. The 21-year-old hit the shot sweetly but it didn’t troubled a confident Marc-Andre ter Stegen in goal.
Rashford then turned provider just before half-time as he swung in an inviting cross to the back post but Diogo Dalot’s header sailed across the area to the feet of Ashley Young at the byline. After the restart, it was Rashford again that had the chance to test Ter Stegen but he could only slice his volley high in the air despite having time and space inside the area.
Substitute Anthony Martial could have been the hero after bursting into the box but his second touch got away from him and the ball was cleared by Gerard Pique. Solskjaer insisted that he couldn’t defend the damning statistic that United have only managed one shot on target at home over 180 minutes of knockout football against both PSG and Barcelona. “That statistic is not right,” Solskjaer said after the game. “We cannot defend that, not scoring at home bar one and I was actually here then. “We created a couple of very good opportunities, Rashy had a volley after a cross that got punched out, Diogo had a great chance at the back post.
“We have to take our chances, you have to be very, very effective and efficient over there. We know we’re not going to create loads of chances so we have to take the ones we get.”
It’s the first time a United side have achieved the unwanted feat in the Champions League since March 2005, when they lost 1-0 to AC Milan at the San Siro. Manchester United have lost four of their last six Champions League home games, as many as they had in their previous 71 at Old Trafford in the competition (W51 D16 L4). They failed to have a single shot on target in a Champions League game for the first time since March 2005, in a 0-1 loss at AC Milan.
To make matters worse, the last player to score at home was Marouane Felliani, who netted a stoppage-time winner against Young Boys last November, which prompted Jose Mourinho’s memorable reaction to launch several water bottles across his technical area.
Both player and manager have since left the club. While many pointed the blame at Mourinho for United’s poor results at home in Europe, it seems Solskjaer has done little to improve on it, although an argument can be made that the Norwegian boss has faced tougher opposition.
And yet again, it is down to Solskjaer to mastermind another famous night away from home to see United progress in the Champions League. But just like the previous round, questions are still being asked about United’s poor home form and their inability to hit the target.