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Manchester United v Barcelona – Combined XI

Manchester United and Barcelona meet at Old Trafford on Thursday evening for their much anticipated Europa League playoff second leg.

The two European heavyweights played out a thrilling 2-2 draw last week at Camp Nou to leave the second leg perfectly poised.

Ahead of the clash, we’ve decided to pick our Man United v Barcelona combined XI.

Goalkeeper: Marc-Andre ter Stegen – Barcelona

Barcelona have found form under Xavi this season to create a significant lead at the top of La Liga, with the club’s defensive record a driving factor in their title charge.

The Spanish side have conceded just seven goals in 22 league fixtures during the current campaign, recording 17 clean sheets.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen has twice as many clean sheets as his next nearest challenger in La Liga and remains one of the last remnants from Barcelona’s last European title – the 2015 Champions League. The German has made 356 appearances for the Catalans, but at 30 remains one of the world’s best goalkeepers and a part of the club’s immediate rebuild.

Right-back: Diogo Dalot – Manchester United

Diogo Dalot has cemented his status as Manchester United’s right-back this season, with the defender beginning to fulfil his potential in the Premier League.

Touted as Europe’s best full-back in his age group upon arriving at Old Trafford, it has taken time and development for Dalot to show that promise. This season the 23-year-old has been excellent, having demonstrated defensive improvement alongside the attacking threat he has long carried.

He has been a key figure in the Red Devils’ improved back four and the club are working on a contract to secure his long-term future. Aaron Wan-Bisakka was preferred to Dalot in the first leg, but after a positive showing against in last weekend’s 3-0 win Dalot is likely to be recalled to the starting XI on Thursday.

Centre-back: Ronald Araujo – Barcelona

Ronald Araujo is fast emerging as one of world football’s best centre-backs, having been a cornerstone of Barcelona’s defensive record this season.

The Uruguayan has grown in stature to become a leader of a Barcelona backline which has conceded just seven La Liga goals so far this season. Araujo’s controlled aggression and athleticism are crucial to the club’s high defensive line and his return from muscular issues earlier in the season and been a huge boost to Barcelona’s title charge.

Barcelona have averaged a huge 2.82 points per game with Araujo in the side this season, the highest of any La Liga player.

Surprisingly used at right-back to combat the threat of Marcus Rashford during last week’s 2-2 draw, the 23-year-old will be hopeful he plays in his preferred central role at Old Trafford.

Centre-back: Lisandro Martinez – Manchester United

Lisandro Martinez has taken little time to become a terrace favourite at Old Trafford.

The summer arrival from Ajax has been in brilliant form for Erik ten Hag’s side this season, overcoming a tough start to emerge as one of the Premier League’s most consistent centre-backs. A fine distributer from the defensive line and full of South American fighting spirit, he has become a hugely popular figure during his debut season in English football.

The combative Argentine – a World Cup winner in Qatar during the winter – has captaincy credentials and Man United fans will be delighted to have him back after he missed last weeks match due to suspension.

Left-back: Luke Shaw – Manchester United

Luke Shaw is producing some of the finest football of his career this season, with the defender invaluable to Erik ten Hag’s improving team. Whether stationed at centre-back or his more familiar full-back role, the England defender has excelled.

Technically proficient and an elegant carrier of the ball upfield, he produced a perfect first touch and pinpoint cross to set up Marcus Rashford’s opener in the recent win at Leeds. It was an example of the creative quality he possesses and Barcelona will need to cut out the service he can provide.

Midfield: Casemiro – Manchester United

Casemiro will do battle with Barcelona once again this week, having regularly duelled with the Spanish giants during a decorated career at Real Madrid.

The Brazil international won five Champions League trophies during his time on the opposite side of the El Clásico divide, before departing for Manchester United in search of a new challenge last summer. He has made a stunning impact in English football and has stamped his mark on Premier League midfields, combining combative defensive work with drive and elegance in possession.

He has been the midfield general that has long been required to solve United’s soft centre.

Midfield: Frenkie de Jong – Barcelona

If Manchester United had got their wish, Frenkie de Jong would have lined up in their colours for this week’s meeting.

Erik ten Hag chased a deal for De Jong last summer as he sought to reunite with a midfielder who had impressed under his management at Ajax. The Dutchman has since produced some of the best football of his career at Barcelona, with Xavi hailing De Jong as ‘one of the best players in the world’ earlier this month.

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Press-resistant with an immaculate first touch and an ability to control games from the base of the midfield, it’s easy to see why Ten Hag was so keen to reunite with his compatriot last summer.

Midfield: Bruno Fernandes – Manchester United

Despite providing massive work-rate the Portuguese schemer struggled to really impact games as much as he normally does during the early part of the season.

However, after a strong personal showing at the World Cup Fernandes has been in superb form since club football returned and Ten Hag described his two assist showing against Leicester at the weekend as ‘magnificent‘.

Whether playing off the right or centrally the talented playmaker remains the man who makes United tick.

Right-wing: Raphinha – Barcelona

After impressing in the Premier League during two seasons at Leeds, Barcelona won a transfer tussle with Arsenal and Leeds to secure the services of the Brazilian attacker last summer.

Having initially struggled to win over some parts of the Barca fanbase Raphina is now starting to show why many rate him as one of the best right-wingers in European football.

The 26-year-old scored and was generally Barca’s most dangerous attacking threat during the opening leg and he will once again be aiming to be a thorn in United’s side on Thursday.

Left-wing: Marcus Rashford – Manchester United

Marcus Rashford is on fire right now, a run of form that has made the Manchester United forward one of Europe’s most exciting talents.

Rashford has scored ten goals in ten Premier League appearances for United since the season’s restart, with his goals having propelled Erik ten Hag’s side into third spot in the Premier League table. The England international has broken through the 20-goal barrier for a third time and looks to have evolved his game into a more complete skillset.

He’s scoring headers and bullying defenders with a combination of strength and speed, with the attributes Rashford has long had beginning to be put together consistently. After his star showing in Catalonia last week Xavi will have no doubts about who exactly Man United’s main danger man is.

Forward: Robert Lewandowski – Barcelona

Robert Lewandowski signed for Barcelona last summer in search of a new challenge, having spent more than a decade terrorising Bundesliga defences.

He scored 447 goals and won ten league titles across spells at Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich, before taking his goalscoring gifts to Spanish football. It’s been so far, so good for Lewandowski in La Liga, with the Poland international the division’s top scorer and averaging a goal every 102 minutes.

Even at 34, he remains a centre-forward capable of winning games singlehandedly and stopping Lewadowski will be paramount to United’s chances of progression.

Read – Iconic Duos: Striking synergy perfected, Cole and Yorke

Read Also – Eight of the most memorable games between Man Utd and Barcelona

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