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  • By Yann Tear

Man U's swatting aside of Barcelona raises spectre of unwanted obstacle to Europa glory for Arsenal

The good news for Arsenal is that they can't be derailed in their last-16 Europa League tie by Manchester United.

The bad news is that there is a danger that in an all-English final in Budapest might go the way of that horrible night against Chelsea in Baku, when Unai Emery got them to the Europa League final.

Of course the Gunners have that dramatic and very recent 3-2 win against United at the Emirates to fall back on, but there is a nagging feeling that United's recovery under Erik ten Hag is gathering an feeling of irresistible momentum.

Their fans certainly believe that. Old Trafford on Thursday was back to the pulsating cauldron it used to be when it could genuinely be classified a fortress.

They are sweeping all before them in their raucous home - where they have beaten Arsenal, Liverpool and Man City this season.

They proved they have that unstoppable belief again in overcoming a 1-0 half-time deficit to brush the once mighty Barcelona aside 2-1 (4-3 on aggregate). Fred and sub Antony were the Brazilians making the difference.

There have been some classic encounters between these two European giants down the ages - including two Champions League finals at Rome at Wembley, which ended in Leo Messi inspired victories for the Catalans.

But, like United, they have fallen off the pace in recent times and are trying to rebuild.

On this week's evidence they have further to go to reach the heights.

By contrast, United made this feel like a Champions League night rather than a game from Europe's second-tie play-offs. And the Gunners really could do with avoiding them.

A lot has to happen for the two teams to meet in Hungary on May 31. They could yet meet before the final - assuming they can both navigate the next stage. But if it comes down to Budapest, it will not feel like history favours the Gunners.

Lest we forget, European finals have been pretty miserable for the north Londoners on the whole.

They have the old Fairs Cup win against Anderlecht and a Cup Winners Cup triumph over Parma to recall (cheers Smudge) but the rest of it is a litany of woe.

There was the penalties defeat to Valencia (thanks Graham Rix), the penalties defeat to Galatasaray when they had to take their kicks at the end populated by Turkish fans, the agony of the early red card for Jens Lehman in Paris when Barcelona killed their one and only Champions League final appearance.

And let's not even talk about that other Parisian nightmare and Nayim's hit over David Seaman from near the halfway line. Real Zaragoza, for heaven's sake. Not Real Madrid or even Sevilla. Zaragoza. A team currently in the second tier of Spanish football.

They fell apart to an Eden Hazard-inspired Chelsea in their last final in this competition and whoever they draw in the next round, they will not probably hold the same dread as a clash against United - who also ruined the Gunners' Champions League hopes at the semi-final stage of the Champions League in 2009.

Some teams with pedigree remain in the competition, like Juventus, Sevilla and Roma - but there is one team in particular that Arsenal will hope to avoid between now and May 31.

Next up for the Gunners is a tie against Sporting Lisbon - with the second leg at home on March 16. They met the Portuguese side in the 2018 edition of the competition, winning 1-0 away and drawing 0-0 at home.

United will meet Real Betis in their round of 16 tie.

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