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Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag believes his team’s last-32 Europa League match against Barcelona was worthy of a place in the final.

United have made a comeback under their new Dutch manager, who took over at the start of the season.

They now head to Spain for the first leg of Thursday’s match against La Liga leaders Barcelona in third place in the Premier League, five points behind table-toppers Arsenal but having played two games more.

Barcelona and Manchester United both have extensive European history, with eight European Cup and Champions League titles between them, as well as other continental accolades.

“I think both Barcelona and (we) would have chosen to play (this match) in the final,” Ten Hag said in comments published Wednesday by UEFA.

“We are looking forward (to it), it (takes) a lot of energy seeking for that finish, and it will be a wonderful game.

“Hopefully, everyone will be fit for Barcelona and for us. As a result, we anticipate a game at the top level.”

He also paid tribute to Barcelona teammate Xavi, claiming to be a fan since his playing days.

“As a player, I admire (Xavi),” Ten Hag added. “Barcelona, the way (they) handled him… he was such an integral part of the team, you can see that (with) the philosophy he now brings, (this) is his Barcelona.

“I appreciate his team and their offensive style of play. I believe he is (moving) in the correct direction. I believe Manchester United and Barcelona will put up a spirited fight.”

Lisandro Martinez and Marcel Sabitzer are both suspended for the first leg, although Casemiro is available because his current suspension only applies to domestic matches.

However, Anthony Martial and Scott McTominay are set to miss the game due to injury after missing training on Wednesday.

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