Manchester United

Manchester United

Premier League • England

Report outlines cunning Xavi plan to stop excellent Man Utd duo in Barcelona clash, with transfer target involved

Marcus Rashford, Luke Shaw and Bruno Fernandes of Man Utd

Man Utd trio Marcus Rashford, Luke Shaw and Bruno Fernandes

Xavi’s plan to stop two Manchester United players in the game against Barcelona on Thursday has been revealed by a report from Spain.

Man Utd came second in their Europa League group, despite winning five out of six matches. Real Sociedad achieved the same feat and went through in first place due to having a superior goal difference.

As a result, Man Utd will have to play Barca in a knockout round play-off over two legs this month. The Spanish giants came third in their Champions League group after winning just two out of six matches. That saw them entered into the Europa League knockout draw.

While both Man Utd and Barca were disappointed with their European exploits earlier in the season, they are both doing well domestically. Man Utd sit in third place in the Premier League with 46 points. They are five points ahead of Newcastle in fourth after playing an extra game.

Barca, meanwhile, currently occupy top spot in La Liga. They may have played one more game than rivals Real Madrid, but they still boast an 11-point lead. They are in pole position to become Spanish champions for the first time since 2018-19.

After both picking up wins at the weekend, Man Utd and Barca are turning their attention to the Europa League match. And Spanish newspaper AS provide an insight into how Barca hope to keep two in-form Man Utd stars at bay.

The report labels Marcus Rashford as Erik ten Hag’s ‘most dangerous striker’. This makes sense as he is already on 21 goals this season.

In response to Rashford’s stunning form, Xavi has decided to give centre-back Ronald Araujo the ‘responsibility’ of dealing with the Englishman.

Man Utd-linked player given Marcus Rashford task

Araujo was linked with a move to Man Utd before penning a new Barca contract in April last year. So it is interesting that he will now try to keep Rashford at bay to aid Barca in their push for Europa League glory.

Araujo will not follow his opponent around the pitch, as man-markers sometimes do. Instead, it will be the defender’s job to stop Rashford whenever he gets into dangerous positions.

The priority is that Rashford does not ‘receive balls into space’. This is because those passes normally allow him to run at defenders with pace.

Araujo has had to deal with quick attackers like Rashford before. He has been given the role of keeping Vinicius Jr quiet in recent matches against Real.

Rashord is not the only Man Utd star Barca are wary of. Xavi believes left-back Luke Shaw plays a big role in Man Utd attacks. He has therefore told right winger Raphinha to track back and prevent Shaw from getting too involved.

Due to this plan, the battles between Rashford and Araujo and Shaw and Raphinha will be ones to keep an eye on this Thursday. If the Man Utd duo get the better of their Barca counterparts, then the Red Devils could complete a first-leg victory at the Nou Camp.

Meanwhile, reports have begun discussing shock Man Utd interest in a Liverpool star after his great performance against Everton on Monday.