Ten Hag Wishes Barcelona Tie Was Europa League Final
Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag believes his side’s last 32 Europa League clash against Barcelona would have been worthy of the final itself.
United have enjoyed a resurgence under their Dutch boss, who took charge ahead of this season.
They now travel to Spain for Thursday’s first-leg tie against La Liga leaders Barcelona in third place in the Premier League, five points behind table-toppers Arsenal but having played two games more than the Gunners.
Both Barcelona and United have rich European histories, with eight European Cup and Champions League titles between them, in addition to other continental trophies.
“I think Barcelona and (us) as well (would) have preferred to play (this match) in the final,” Ten Hag told UEFA in comments published Wednesday.
“We are looking forward (to it), it (takes) a lot of energy searching for that finish, and it will be a great game.
“Hopefully, everyone is fit for Barcelona and for us. So we see a game (that will be played) at the highest level.”
He also paid tribute to Barcelona counterpart Xavi, saying he had been a fan since his playing days.
“As a player, I admire (Xavi),” added Ten Hag. “Barcelona, the way (they) played with him… he was such an important part of the team, you can see that (with) the philosophy he now brings, (this) is his Barcelona.
“I really like his team, the attacking way of play. I think he is (heading) in the right direction. I think it’s going to be a good challenge between Manchester United and Barcelona.”
Lisandro Martinez and the on-loan Marcel Sabitzer are suspended for the first leg, but Casemiro is available as his current ban only applies to domestic fixtures.
But Anthony Martial and Scott McTominay are set to miss the match through injury having missed training on Wednesday.