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Michael Carrick’s first match as Manchester United caretaker manager saw Fred restored to the starting eleven.

He replaced Nemanja Matic in the side as United clinched a crucial 2-0 win over Villarreal.

Fred pressed Etienne Capoue into a mistake to allow Cristiano Ronaldo to open the scoring.

He was also involved early in the move which led to Jadon Sancho making it 2-0 with his first goal since joining United.

At his post-match press conference, Carrick paid tribute to Fred, saying: “Fred’s one of the best around at doing what he does.

“He played a massive part in the first goal, obviously Cristiano finishes it off but Fred was terrific.

“The defending and the intercepting for the second goal is what we’ve got in the team.

If this was a team being led by Ronald Koeman, then Barca’s Champions League hopes would already be extinguished. There’s little doubt about that.

Despite the fact that no goals were scored against Benfica, it wasn’t for the want of trying.

On a night like Tuesday, it’s important to accentuate the positives rather than picking apart any minor negatives that there may have been.

For a start, that’s two clean sheets already for Xavi’s Barca, and playing in a much more enjoyable attacking style than his predecessor ever managed.

The kids are gaining invaluable experience that will stand them in good stead in later years too.

Let’s also tip a hat to Ousmane Dembele who was exceptional when he came on and, on another night, with perhaps Ansu in situ, a goal would’ve been a given.

Being literally a whisker away from going through after a tidy finish from Ronald Araujo was the cruellest of blows, although I imagine Jorge Jesus felt the same after seeing his side blow the best chance they had right at the death.

With Bayern to come, it’ll take a big performance to get the win that’s likely to be needed to progress, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be achieved.

Particularly if the Bavarians decide to rest a number of their usual starters in what is a dead rubber for them.

They have Der Klassiker to play just a few days before, and it’s entirely possible that that meeting might play into Barca’s hands.

Furthermore, how many times in the past has a supposed favourite been undone by either their complacency or the excellence of their opponents?

Frankly, what have Barcelona got to lose in such a situation, not forgetting that it’s a game that will be played behind closed doors, which could suit the Blaugranes.

A worst case scenario is dropping down into the Europa League but, frankly, we are where we are.

We all know where to point the finger of blame if that happens, though if we want to put a positive spin on that eventuality… there’d still be a trophy to be won.

The usual culer pessimism needs to be reversed for the remainder of the season because getting right behind Xavi and the boys could work wonders for morale.

It’s easy to forget how young some of these players are, and yet they’re willingly accepting the responsibility of wearing the shirt and doing themselves proud.

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