Manchester United were one of dozens of clubs with scouts present at Benfica’s midweek Champions League victory over Barcelona, keeping a close eye on potential transfer targets
Benfica putting three goals past Barcelona made more than a few people sit up and take notice across world football.
The shock result saw the Catalan giant’s downward spiral of recent weeks continue as they slumped to their second successive Champions League loss in the Group E game between the sides on Wednesday.
But while Barca’s troubles – both on and off the field – have been well-documented, the performance of their opponents should not be understated.
Benfica impressed, absorbing sustained periods of pressure from Barcelona before hitting them back on the counter attack with some lethal finishing in front of goal.
And as their Spanish counterparts bid to forget a dismal night at the office, this special Champions League night for Benfica was a chance unlike any other for the club’s young stars to impress.
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The Portuguese club has long been a hotbed for talented stars, with scouts across Europe flocking to catch their next generation in action.
Among those casting an eye over proceedings this season have been representatives of Manchester United.
And A Bola reported that the Red Devils had staff present in Lisbon again on Wednesday night.
The paper claims that representatives from over 30 top European clubs were there for the convincing 3-0 victory, including Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, and Tottenham.
The ‘Big Six’ were not the only English clubs present, with scouts from Leicester City, Blackburn Rovers, Southampton and Leeds also making the trip, along with clubs from Spain, France, Germany and Holland – most notably Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid and Juventus.
It is not known who United were there to watch but a number of Benfica players impressed on the night.
Man of match Darwin Nunez scored in the third minute to put Barcelona on the back foot early, and netted the penalty which made it 3-0 to the Portuguese team.
This is not the first time United have scouted Benfica this season, having sent scouts to their win over Boavista earlier in the campaign, where Nunez was also on target twice again.
The Argentinian striker has been in good form recently but was not the only standout player.
Defender Lucas Verissimo played well and was key in repelling Barca’s attacks, while in midfield, Julian Weigl already has Premier League admirers and Rafa Silva got his name on the scoresheet too.
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Certainly in Weigl’s case there may perhaps be a hint of an opportunity there, given United’s problem area is in defensive midfield, where it looks likely Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will look to strengthen next summer.
Chelsea have been linked with the German international in recent months, with a previous report from O Jogo claiming Benfica would be willing to accept around €30m (£25.7m) for his services.
While United’s extensive scouting network were busy gathering further information on prospective targets, Solskjaer’s men managed to uphold their side of the job by earning a last-gasp victory over Villarreal.
Despite an impressive transfer window, United do not look as assured or capable as their rivals, but few can deny the impact Cristiano Ronaldo has had since his return.
It was down to his timely intervention in the 95th minute of second half stoppage time that snatched all three points for United to keep their Champions League hopes on track.
They next face Atalanta at Old Trafford on October 20 – the same day Benfica host Bayern Munich.