Barcelona boss Xavi has praised Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag for his impact at Old Trafford. The two sides will clash in the UEFA Europa League knockout playoff first leg on Thursday (February 16) at the Camp Nou.
Ten Hag, who was appointed the Red Devils boss in April last year, has overseen a superb 2022-23 campaign. His side are third in the Premier League, winning 14 of 23 games, and trailing leaders Arsenal by five points. They are still competing in four competitions: the Premier League, FA Cup, Carabao Cup and Europa League.
Manchester United have the most wins (25) by any club in Europe this season. Xavi has evidently been impressed with what he has seen from his Europa League opponents. He said (via Samuel Luckhurst):
“Ten Hag has changed the face of United’s team. It’s been hard for them, but they’re doing a great job.”
🎙️ XAVI: “They are Manchester United. We respect them a lot.” #BarçaMUFC pic.twitter.com/pVx8czzOjY
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) February 15, 2023
Ten Hag’s summer transfer business has worked a treat for United. The acquisition of Casemiro, Lisandro Martinez, and Christian Eriksen has contributed to a brilliant season for the Red Devils.
Xavi is also wary of the threat posed by Manchester United’s in-form striker Marcus Rashford. The English attacker has bagged 21 goals in 34 games across competitions. Xavi added (via Barcelona’s Twitter account):
“Rashford is one of the most dangerous players in Europe.”
The Red Devils face one of their toughest tests yet against Barcelona, who are enjoying a stellar campaign themselves. The Blaugrana are top of La Liga, holding a convincing 11-point lead over second-placed Real Madrid.
Barcelona boss Xavi explains how he nearly joined Manchester United during his playing career
Barcelona manager Xavi has revealed that he nearly moved to Manchester United during difficult times in his youth playing career.
The legendary Spanish midfielder was tasked with replacing former Blaugrana captain and current Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola but had difficulties in doing so. Xavi told Graham Hunter (via ESPN):
“There was a long time when I genuinely thought about accepting United’s offer. I needed a change of scenery, and things were not going well for me at Barcelona.”
Xavi continued by touching on his love for English football and the criticism over him replacing Guardiola:
“I have always felt a real attachment to English football, and Manchester United would be ‘my club’ there. For a long chunk of my career, when it looked to people like I was Pep Guardiola’s successor in midfield, I was made to feel, by some, like an outsider, like a bad guy for taking over from the legendary captain.”
“I thought about moving to United, but I dug my heels in. I said to myself ‘I need to prove myself here!'”
Our Champion, Xavi 🏆
✍️ @Rahul_FE pic.twitter.com/HDbA0GYMSy
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) September 3, 2021
Xavi went on to make 767 appearances for Barcelona, scoring 85 goals and providing 184 assists. The Spaniard won the UEFA Champions League four times, La Liga eight times and the Copa del Rey thrice.