Barcelona coach Xavi has labelled Manchester United one of Europe’s ‘top teams’ following a 2-2 draw at Camp Nou in the Europa League but believes both clubs are ‘coming back’ from lean years.
The stage of Thursday night’s Europa League knockout playoff first leg was a far cry from the Champions League finals of 2009 and 2011 when Barça and United met in Rome and London respectively for the right to be crowned Europe’s very best.
But such has been the resurgent form of both teams this season after respective problems, this was still the pick of all the UEFA fixtures being played this week. What’s more, the 2-2 draw that leaves the tie delicately poised ahead of the second leg at Old Trafford didn’t disappoint.
“It was a really tough game, really difficult, with a lot of intensity, passion, rhythm,” Xavi told BT Sport afterwards. “I think we have to be proud because we competed really well until the end. We could have won in the last two chances, but we played against a top team in Europe.
“I think both teams are more or less in the same moment, in the same position, that we are coming back. I said to [Erik] Ten Hag now, ‘congratulations’, because he’s doing very well and they are Manchester United.
“It can be a final, a semi-final, a quarter-final maybe in the future of the Champions League, but now we are in the Europa League and we are coming back. Today we showed our very best performance, a very good performance from both teams.”