Frenkie de Jong reveals conversation with Wout Weghorst after man-marking job

Frenkie de Jong has praised Wout Weghorst’s performance in an unfamiliar number 10 role, with the Manchester United striker tasked with ‘annoying’ Barcelona’s midfielders.

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The two teams played out a thoroughly entertaining match at the Camp Nou in Thursday night’s Europa League knockout round play-off first-leg, with the spoils shared in a 2-2 draw.

Barca took the lead from a corner but United hit back instantly through Marcus Rashford before a Jules Kounde own goal gave them the lead, though Raphinha’s late cross-cum-shot ensured the tie was finely poised ahead of next week’s second leg at Old Trafford.

Weghorst lined up in a rather unusual, more withdrawn role playing as a number 10 with Rashford ahead of him, and he has now revealed that manager Erik ten Hag wanted him to unsettle Barca’s midfielders.

‘Their midfielders are very important for them to shift the game,’ Weghorst told ESPN afterwards.

‘My job was to constantly get in their way and be annoying there so that they don’t get into their game and can’t play the way they like to do.

‘And to be able to make my depth actions offensively from the second line, because they are vulnerable in that. You saw that in the first half.’

The tactic worked well and De Jong – who United tried to sign last summer – had a very difficult night, though he could laugh about it afterwards.

Asked about the man-marking job Weghorst did on him, De Jong told ESPN: ‘He already said it in the tunnel before the game: “I’m going to get in your way!” And he did a good job.’

Asked about his decision to play Weghorst as a number 10 – and whether his plan worked – Ten Hag himself told BT Sport: ‘I think so!

‘But it’s not only about Wout, although he did well in that position and I know he can be [a number 10].

‘But it gives us a lot of variation but also I want to bring Jadon [Sancho] and Bruno [Fernandes] coming into half spaces, getting them on the ball and make runs from deep.

‘With the full-backs joining in, I think we had a lot of variation and we had a lot of opportunities and we should have won this game.’

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