Erik ten Hag was left furious with the referee's decision to not give Manchester United a free-kick for an apparent foul on Marcus Rashford during their 2-2 draw with Barcelona at Camp Nou in their Europa League knockout round play-off first leg.

Rashford was a thorn in Barca's side throughout and appeared to be taken out by Jules Kounde when through on goal just outside the penalty area with United leading 2-1, but referee Maurizio Mariani allowed play to continue.

The England international equalised Marcos Alonso's opener earlier in the second half before forcing a Kounde own goal to give United the lead, though Raphinha levelled with 14 minutes remaining.

Despite the generally positive performance and result, Ten Hag felt a need to focus on the incident involving Kounde's tackle on Rashford, as the Frenchman would likely have been dismissed if a foul was given.

Ten Hag told BT Sport: "I think the referee had a big influence on this game. It was a foul on Rashy.

"You can discuss if it was in or outside the box, but then [either way] it is a red card because [Rashford] was one-on-one with the keeper. 

"So it's a big influence, not just for this game, in this round. It can't be, referees can't much such mistakes."

Rashford himself was similarly baffled by Mariani's decision.

"It's a massive moment in the game," he said. "I've not watched it back but in the moment I don't understand why the linesman thinks I'm going down there.

"I've touched it past him and my foot's in front of the ball, [Kounde] hits my leg and it's clear contact. It's not a penalty but it's 100 per cent a foul for me."

Nevertheless, Ten Hag acknowledged the overall quality of the thrilling encounter and was impressed with the amount of chances United created.

"I think we dictated the game," Ten Hag continued. "Apart from maybe 15 minutes in the first half we had some difficulties, but for the rest we dictated the game.

"We had so many chances, so I was a little disappointed at half-time it was 0-0, we should have scored, and the opportunities they had we created by ourselves.

"But I think it was a great game, two attacking teams, I think it was really Champions League [quality], so I really enjoyed the game... in the end 2-2, we have to finish it at Old Trafford."

Rashford, who has now equalled his best ever goals return (22) for a single season, seemed a bit more frustrated than his manager.

"It feels like a loss," he added. "I think we did well to get back into the game. The first half was a little bit in favour of them, but we stayed calm and composed and tried to create chances when we could.

"The second half we scored two goals in quick succession and felt in control of the outcome, but they're a good team with top players and they got an equaliser."

The two European giants will do it all again at Old Trafford next Thursday.

Marcus Rashford's heroics were not enough for Manchester United as Raphinha's fortuitous goal rescued Barcelona a 2-2 draw in the first leg of their Europa League knockout round play-off.

In-form Rashford scored his 22nd goal of the season – matching his best tally for a single campaign – to cancel out Marcos Alonso's opener in Thursday's thrilling clash at Camp Nou.

United were ahead nine minutes after falling behind thanks to more good work from Rashford, whose quick thinking from a short corner culminated in Jules Kounde putting into his own net.

But Barca, who lost influential midfielder Pedri to a first-half injury, hit back against the run of play in the 76th minute when Raphinha's cross went right the way through to keep things finely poised ahead of next week's return leg.

 

Neymar is contracted with Paris Saint-Germain until 2025 but the French champions have reportedly transfer listed him.

The Brazilian forward is on a hefty wage, believed to be around €36 million per year.

Neymar has netted 12 goals in 19 Ligue 1 games this season, adding another five goals in nine appearances in other competitions.


TOP STORY – MEETING HELD AS CHELSEA'S NEYMAR INTEREST DEVELOPS

Le Parisien reports Chelsea owner Todd Boehly has met with PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi about a transfer for Neymar.

The report claims the meeting was held in Paris, discussing the conditions around a potential transfer in the next transfer window.

It is claimed that a fee of around €60 million (£53m) has been discussed, although Neymar's significant wages may be a stumbling block to overcome.

 

ROUND-UP

– Inter defender Denzel Dumfries is set to be the subject of off-season bids from both Arsenal and Manchester United, claims Fichajes. The Premier League duo both see an opportunity to sign the Dutchman below market value.

– Fabrizio Romano reports Barcelona have agreed to sign Mexican right-back Julian Araujo from MLS club LA Galaxy. The deal is worth €4 million, with a contract to be signed up until 2026.

– Sport Bild claims Bayern Munich are monitoring the status of Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford, with consideration being put to a bid prior to the next transfer window. Arsenal are also keep tabs on Rashford's situation, according to Football Insider.

– Bild also reports Bayern are still keen on Tottenham forward Harry Kane but will not be drawn into a bidding war for his services, with Manchester United in the hunt too.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta wants the club to sign Real Sociedad's 24-year-old midfielder Martin Zubimendi, reports Sport.

Liverpool have held preliminary talks for Torino defender Perr Schuurs, claims Tuttosport.

Xavi warned Barcelona they must deal with "one of the most dangerous players in Europe" in Marcus Rashford when they host Manchester United on Thursday.

The two European heavyweights will face off in the Europa League at Camp Nou in the first leg as the pair bid for a place in the last 16.

Runaway LaLiga leaders Barca have been in fine form, winning 11 straight games in all competitions since the start of 2023 ahead of the high-profile clash in UEFA's secondary club competition.

But the Blaugrana will have to deal with the in-form Rashford, who has scored 13 times in 15 games since the World Cup, and Xavi acknowledged the danger the England international will pose.

"In the transition he is very, very dangerous, so we need to take care of all of them but especially Rashford," the Barca coach said on Wednesday at his pre-match press conference.

"He's one of the most dangerous players now in Europe."

While Barca will be tasked with coping against the resurgent Rashford, United will get a taste of what could have had when they face Frenkie de Jong.

Erik ten Hag's side tried and failed to sign the Netherlands international in the transfer window ahead of the 2022-23 season, with the Dutchman subsequently emerging as a key cog in Xavi's midfield.

"Frenkie is an incredible player and for every club in the whole world he will strengthen the squad because he has a unique quality," said Ten Hag, who managed De Jong during his time as Ajax coach.

"If you can get him in the squad your team will be stronger. In Spain, he became even better.

"He's a fantastic player, plays out from the back, he always has time and it was a pleasure to work with him."

Andreas Christensen warned Barcelona must be wary of the "dangerous" Marcus Rashford, hailing Erik ten Hag's work at Manchester United.

Barca host United in the first leg of the Europa League on Thursday as the two European heavyweights battle for a place in the last 16.

Ten Hag's side have won 12 out of 15 games across all competitions since the World Cup break, with a resurgent United inspired by Rashford's superb form.

The 25-year-old has scored 13 times for United since the season restarted and Christensen expects a tough test from the forward at Camp Nou.

"He is in great form at the moment. I like him a lot, I love the way he plays. He is a direct, dangerous, and powerful player," Christensen said in a video posted by Barca's social media channels.

Rashford has netted 21 goals this term and has benefitted from the coaching of Ten Hag.

The Dutchman inherited a struggling squad after Ralf Rangnick failed to transform United in his short spell following Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's' dismissal last season.

United sit third in the Premier League and will face Newcastle United in the EFL Cup final as the Red Devils search for their first major silverware since the 2016-17 campaign under Jose Mourinho.

"They have great quality and the way they play is good," Christensen said of United. 

"I think Ten Hag will take them to a different level. It will be a tough game, but I think we are in a great moment. Will be a great match."

Barca lead LaLiga by 11 points, with second-placed Real Madrid having played a game fewer, and Christensen urged the Blaugrana to seize the opportunity for success at the end of the season.

"I got here seven months ago, and I think it's been great," the 26-year-old continued. "I think we are on the right track. We want to win another title this season."

Erik ten Hag rates Marcus Rashford as one of the best strikers in Europe after he scored his 21st goal of the season in Manchester United's 2-0 win at Leeds United.

Rashford headed the Red Devils in front 10 minutes from time in Sunday's frenetic Premier League encounter at Elland Road and Alejandro Garnacho sealed the victory by adding a second goal.

England international Rashford has found the back of the net 13 times in 15 matches since the World Cup and this was his 12th goal in the top flight this season.

Rashford salvaged a 2-2 draw for the Red Devils against managerless Leeds on Wednesday and inflicted more pain on the relegation-threatened Whites four days later.

United boss Ten Hag believes the 25-year-old is among Europe's elite marksmen after he scored in a fourth successive Premier League match, helping his side to go second ahead of Manchester City's game against Aston Villa. 

The Dutchman said when asked if Rashford is among the best: "He's definitely one of them. He has the skills. I was convinced from the first moment. I was really excited to work with him. I thought I could get more out of him.

"But he has so many skills and such high potential and there can be even more. When he works well he will score even more goals because he can score with his left, right and his head.

"It's about him getting into position, but also the team has to have the capabilities to pass in there and cross in there, as they did today. I think that is what I wanted to describe.

"If you have better formation and calmness on the ball, you get a switch of play or you bring an extra pass, like we did for the goal.

"And then finally, a great cross from Shawy (Luke Shaw) and Marcus was in the right time there. And once again it is a good move by Wout Weghorst at the front post."

Ten Hag challenged Rashford to score up to 35 goals this season before the match in West Yorkshire and says he must be hungry to push on.

He added: "You asked me, 'do you think you have a player in your squad who can score 20 goals?' in August or September and I confirmed. I think he can do that.

"Now, if you are satisfied with it then it will stop. Because satisfaction goes to laziness you have to keep investing every day and when he keeps the investment and keeps the focus in every game and bring the energy in and the belief, he will score, he will keep scoring.

"So then I don't know when it will stop, but it has to go from game to game and during the week do the right things. I think as a manager, as a coaching staff, we have to push him but finally it comes from the player. When he loses focus, the scoring will stop."

Marcus Rashford scored his 21st goal of the season as Manchester United left it late to beat managerless Leeds United 2-0 at Elland Road on Sunday.

Rashford salvaged a 2-2 draw for Erik ten Hag's side after relegation-threatened Leeds had taken a shock two-goal lead when the two rivals met at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

The forward continued his outstanding form by heading the Red Devils in front 10 minutes from time in a fiery Premier League encounter in West Yorkshire.

Alejandro Garnacho sealed the victory five minutes later as Manchester United moved about Manchester City into second place ahead of the champions' game against Aston Villa later in the day.

Marcus Rashford has been challenged to finish the season with as many as 35 goals by Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag.

Rashford hit the net for the 20th time this term as the Red Devils recovered from two goals down to salvage a 2-2 Premier League draw with Leeds United on Wednesday.

The England forward has scored 12 goals in 14 appearances since returning from the World Cup and has almost three times as many goals as United's next highest scorer Bruno Fernandes, who has seven to his name.

With Rashford on course to comfortably surpass the most prolific campaign of his career to date of 22 goals in 2019-20, Ten Hag urged him to keep aiming high.

"[There is] much more to come and we have months to play, important months," Ten Hag told the club's website. "We have to get into a position where we can win trophies. 

"Until now, where we are, Marcus has had a big impact in this season. 

"I remember at the start of the season, I was questioning can he score 20 goals. Now he has that marker, he has scored 20 goals, but now it's about getting more. 

"He has to challenge himself to get 30 or 35, but most focus has to be on the next goal and if you have that focus, you will see where you end up. But most important is that we win as a team."

Rashford travels for Sunday's return fixture at Leeds having scored twice in his past three away league games, after only netting once in his previous 18 top-flight road trips.

Marcus Rashford's "unbelievable focus" is key to a Manchester United full of "bright, happy people", believes manager Erik ten Hag.

The England international endured a difficult 2021-22 campaign but is a forward reborn under the Dutchman at Old Trafford this term.

Rashford was on hand to rescue a point in Wednesday's 2-2 draw with Leeds United, scoring his 11th Premier League goal of the season.

Ten Hag credits his turnaround with an increased attention to detail on and off the pitch, and suggests it has had a knock-on effect for his team-mates.

"He has unbelievable focus in this moment," Ten Hag told Sky Sports about Rashford. 

"He is aware of it. If he makes the right movements, he or his team will bring him in the right position to score goals.

"In this moment, he sets the flow. He brings it every game on the pitch. If he has that energy and those levels, he will score goals.

"The only thing the team has to do is get him in that position."

Ten Hag added: "We see bright, happy people, I think [we must continue to] be positive. You have to approach the game in the positive mindset.

"If the whole squad bring it home, you have magnificent results, which is what we are going for."

Rashford is United's top scorer this season, helping to fill the void left behind by Cristiano Ronaldo's acrimonious mid-season exit from the club.

He will hope to be on target once again when the club make the short trip to Leeds for a rapid-fire return fixture at Elland Road on Sunday.

Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford rescued Manchester United in a lively 2-2 draw with Leeds United at Old Trafford, denying the managerless visitors a famous win with a second-half fightback.

United knew a win would move them level with second-placed Manchester City in the Premier League table, but Wilfried Gnonto stunned the Red Devils by firing Leeds ahead inside one minute.

Raphael Varane's own goal then gave United a mountain to climb, but in-form forward Rashford gave them hope with a fine header, setting up a grandstand finish.

Sancho – who recently returned to the fold after a period of absence – levelled things up as a second-half substitute, before United failed to force a winner in a captivating finish. 

Leeds came flying out of the traps and scored after 55 seconds as Gnonto drilled into the bottom-left corner following a give-and-go with Patrick Bamford.

The hosts then laid siege to Leeds' goal for the rest of the first half, with Alejandro Garnacho volleying wide before Maximilian Wober denied him with a goal-line clearance.

Marcel Sabitzer drew a spectacular save from Illan Meslier from 25 yards, and the Red Devils fell further behind shortly after half-time.

The outstanding Gnonto found substitute Crysencio Summerville on the underlap, and his cut-back was diverted past David de Gea by Varane.

United found a route back into the contest just after the hour as Rashford rose to head Diogo Dalot's cross home, and their pressure told once more with 20 minutes remaining.

Shaw's cut-back deflected into the path of Sancho, who saw his tame effort squirm through Meslier's grip to level things up.

Varane almost went from villain to hero with a powerful header as United continued to press, but Meslier atoned for his own earlier error with a save to preserve Leeds' point.

Manchester United had Casemiro sent off but racked up a sixth consecutive Premier League home win as Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford scored in a 2-1 victory over Crystal Palace.

Palace were on the back foot from the off in Saturday's game and fell behind to Fernandes' typically cool penalty inside the opening 10 minutes, before Rashford added a second goal shortly after the hour.

Casemiro was then dismissed following a VAR review after he put his hands around Will Hughes' neck during an altercation between both sets of players, and Jeffrey Schlupp set up a tense finale with a goal 14 minutes from full-time.

United held on, though, to move three points behind second-placed Manchester City, who have a game in hand – while Palace remain 12th, six points clear of the relegation zone.

The hosts were rewarded for a bright start in the seventh minute when Fernandes stroked home from the spot after Hughes handled Rashford's cross – the decision given following a pitchside review by referee Andre Marriner.

Vicente Guaita kept out efforts from Wout Weghorst and Rashford before the half-hour mark, while Fred clipped wide from close range as United threatened to double their advantage.

Rashford was switched into the centre of United's attack following Alejandro Garnacho's introduction in place of Weghorst, and the move paid off in the 62nd minute as the in-form England international steered home Luke Shaw's cross from eight yards.

Casemiro's red-mist moment handed the initiative to Palace, who reduced the deficit when Schlupp prodded home from a corner, yet United managed to hold on for maximum points.

Jurgen Klopp has challenged Liverpool to follow Marcus Rashford's example and roar back to match-winning form.

Klopp's side have won just one of their last six games in all competitions, with Kaoru Mitoma's stoppage-time winner for Brighton and Hove Albion last weekend ending the Reds' hopes of silverware in the FA Cup.

Out of the EFL Cup and sitting 21 points behind Premier League leaders Arsenal in ninth, Liverpool have failed to match the standards they have set for much of Klopp's time at the club.

They have won the Premier League and Champions League under the German, while finishing runners-up in those competitions a combined four times.

Liverpool's slump has coincided with rivals Manchester United enjoying a strong first campaign under new manager Erik ten Hag, with the Red Devils fourth in the league and the only team left fighting for success on four fronts.

United have been able to count on the impressive form of Rashford, who has bounced back from scoring just four league goals last season to net 18 times in 31 appearances across all competitions this term.

Klopp cited Rashford's stunning return to form as a model for Liverpool to follow in their bid to get back to winning ways, saying: "One of the best examples is Marcus Rashford, the season he had last year and this year.

"I'm sure he can't really explain it. It's not like Marcus didn't want to deliver last year. Now he's flying.

"The time in between these two extremes, you have to use, you have to work and fight through it. Self-pity is not allowed in these moments. Only one person can change this, and it's yourselves. These things can happen and will happen, but it's about limiting the time to get back on track."

Having tasted victory only eight times in 19 league games so far this season, Klopp believes his team must show they are capable of winning games again if they are to finish the season strongly.

"We love this game, the boys especially because they can play it still," Klopp said. "A big part of it is the desire to win football games. When you don't achieve that, that's the hardest moment for all footballers on the planet.

"We were much better in a lot of areas [against Brighton], but in the end when the result is not right, it overshadows everything.

"When you've won the last five games, you don't have to prove that you can win football games because everybody knows. We have to prove this point, that's clear.

"We didn't win enough football games in the last few weeks and the whole season so far, so that's what we want."

Liverpool travel to Molineux to face Wolves on Saturday, a third meeting with Julen Lopetegui's side since the turn of the year following a 2-2 draw at Anfield in an FA Cup third-round game and a 1-0 victory in the replay.

Saturday's match is the first of a run that sees them face local rivals Everton and top-four hopefuls Newcastle United, before the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie with Real Madrid at Anfield on February 21.

Klopp is remaining calm ahead of the crucial juncture in Liverpool's season, explaining at his pre-match press conference: "I don't worry about a run of fixtures. We have to use the time we have to improve, to play the football we want to play, to work on the things we think are necessary or massively necessary.

"We have only played half the season, which is crazy but means the second half of the season we can do whatever we want in a positive direction.

"We decide how positive the outcome will be."

Marcus Rashford's scintillating form comes from "just confidence" and not the influence of Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag, who joked: "I'm not Harry Potter".

The England international scored his 18th goal of the season amid a routine 3-0 EFL Cup semi-final first-leg victory at Nottingham Forest on Wednesday.

Only Erling Haaland (31) has netted more than Rashford among Premier League players in all competitions this term, though Ten Hag says he has had little influence on the United forward's development.

"I'm not Harry Potter," the Dutchman said ahead of Saturday's fourth-round FA Cup clash at home to Reading.

"It's just confidence. Every player has to make and get his own confidence.

"He fought for this, he invested in this. Of course with my coaching staff, we bring in structures, especially in the way of play that gives him routines that he needs to get into the right position.

"But finally, it's up to him, and when the player has the confidence then I'm convinced, in the way we are working – the way of play is most important but the environment and the culture are also important – then the player can perform at his best.

"It's obvious that Marcus is in really good form. From day to day, from training to training, from game to game, the routines are coming in."

Rashford has found the net 10 times after the World Cup, in which England fell to quarter-final elimination against France in Qatar.

Harry Maguire was another to impress in the Middle East for Gareth Southgate's side, but opportunities remain limited on club duty at Old Trafford.

A potential move to Unai Emery's Aston Villa was reported for Maguire, who Ten Hag urged to fight for a starting role at United amid competition from Lisandro Martinez, Raphael Varane and Victor Lindelof. Luke Shaw has also been used at centre-back.

"No, he's not fifth choice,” he said about Maguire. "But it's up to him.

"I have to say he's training very well, bringing quality, and that is what I expect from all the players in the squad.

"He has to fight for his position and things can change, sometimes really quickly. He is making progress."

An FA Cup clash against Championship side Reading may present Maguire with an opportunity to feature from the start, though Ten Hag refuted claims he does not trust the centre-back in big matches.

He said: "That's not true. After the World Cup he should have played but then he got ill. I can't do anything about that and he knows that. Then the team comes in a run [of form] and he has to wait for his chance."

Manchester United look great value to end their six-year wait for silverware in Erik ten Hag's first season in charge at Old Trafford.

In the words of the Dutchman himself, that is far too long a wait for a club of United's stature to go between trophies.

United fans have not had a huge amount to cheer since their 2016-17 EFL Cup triumph, but that could soon be about to change.

The Red Devils remain in top-four contention in the Premier League, are as good as in the EFL Cup final and are also still in the hunt to win the Europa League and FA Cup.

After seeing off Everton 3-1 in round three of the latter, United now have a meeting with second-tier Reading – managed by ex-Red Devil Paul Ince – for a place in the last 16.

Ahead of Saturday's contest at Old Trafford, Stats Perform picks out some of the standout Opta numbers.


We meet again

You'd be right in thinking this fixture has a sense of familiarity about it, with this the 11th time the two sides have been paired in the FA Cup.

That will make this the joint-ninth most-played fixture in the competition's history since 1912, with Arsenal versus Chelsea and Everton against Liverpool (15) top of that list.

United have advanced from nine of those previous 10 ties, the only exception being a 2-1 loss when the sides met in a second replay in the third-round stage in 1926-27.

Among FA Cup ties to have been played at least six times, only five teams can better United's 90-per-cent win rate against a single opponent in the competition.
 

A one-sided affair

The one-sided nature of this fixture is not reserved exclusively for the FA Cup, either.

Reading have won just one of their 22 games against United when taking all competitions into account and have lost six in a row.

Indeed, you have to go back to that cup tie 96 years ago for the last time the Royals came out on top against United, with that match staged at Villa Park.

Across United's six-match winning run against Reading, they have racked up 15 goals and kept three clean sheets in a row.
 

Right Royal misery

Reading know they will have to pull off a big upset if they are to advance, but their record against Premier League sides suggests that will not be happening this weekend.

They have lost seven of their past eight FA Cup matches against Premier League opposition, with their 3-1 win over West Brom in February 2016 the outlier in that sequence.

United are rightly considered huge favourites for this match, then, not least because they have lost only one of their past 39 home games against teams from outside the top tier.

Ten Hag's side are unbeaten in 14 matches at Old Trafford in the FA Cup against any opponent in a run stretching back to a 2-1 loss to Arsenal in 2015.
 

Europe's hottest player

It doesn't help matters that Reading have endured an inconsistent campaign in the Championship, whereas United have – a few games aside – impressed in the top flight.

Ten Hag deserves huge praise for his early work at United, which includes getting far more out of Marcus Rashford in an attacking sense.

The England international has scored 10 goals in 10 games since the World Cup – a tally no other player across Europe's top five leagues can match.

Rashford netted a late penalty in the previous round and has now been involved in five goals in his past five FA Cup appearances, scoring two and assisting three more.

That could spell bad news for Reading, against whom Rashford scored his only previous brace in the competition in a 4-0 third-round victory in January 2017.

Marcus Rashford looks like a "lean, fighting machine" according to former Manchester United captain Roy Keane.

The England international maintained his excellent form by giving United the lead in their EFL Cup semi-final first leg against Nottingham Forest at the City Ground.

Rashford has scored 18 goals for the Red Devils this season, with only Manchester City's Erling Haaland (31) recording more for a Premier League club.

"We were pitch-side when the players came out and he looked lean. You wouldn't want to be up against him – all the best," Keane said to Sky Sports.

"He looks like a lean, fighting machine."

The 25-year-old has thrived under Erik ten Hag, showing an immense improvement on his five goals in 32 games (18 starts) from last season.

"Sometimes it's about confidence – there is where he's peaking now. He's played a lot of games for United and big games for England in the last few years," Keane added.

"Sometimes the penny drops for a player in terms of decision-making and putting the ball in the back of the net. And they've needed him.

"The question mark I've had over Marcus in the last few years is, has he got that personality to step up to the plate?

"United have had some great strikers over the years, and I think they need someone like that. Marcus has to say he wants that responsibility to be the main man. The best players turn up week in and week out. It looks like he's now enjoying that responsibility, which is great to see."

It was put to Keane that Rashford has thrived since the exit of Cristiano Ronaldo, having scored 10 goals in 10 games in all competitions since end of the 2022 World Cup, the most of any player for clubs in Europe's big-five leagues in that time.

"When a player leaves the club the responsibility goes onto another player," Keane replied.

"He's 25, not a child, sometimes when the timing is right you can be ready for that. He doesn't get the niggly injuries anymore with his groin, he seems to have cleared it up. He looks in a great place mentally, too, which is huge. He said he reckons he took too much on away from football – and being a top footballer is hard enough.

"So putting the other stuff on the back burner and focusing on being a top player for Manchester United has seen him get his priorities right."

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.