Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes

Prior to Thursday night's European classic between Barcelona and Manchester United, the Spanish giants' boss Xavi singled out Marcus Rashford as one of the most dangerous players in Europe.

It was not hyperbole, as all those inside the Nou Camp would attest to by the time the full-time whistle was blown on a pulsating 2-2 draw in the first leg of the Europa League play-off.

Rashford wreaked havoc in a deadly second-half display in which he scored one goal and played a huge part in the other - and he is firmly on course for his best-ever season in football.

The England forward's goal against Barcelona took his total in a sensational season to 22 in all competitions, equalling his best return with plenty more games still left.

"He is virtually unplayable at the moment," said former Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes on BT Sport.

"No-one can handle him. Wherever he is playing, left, right or down the middle, he just seems unplayable."

Former England goalkeeper Rob Green, watching the game for BBC Radio 5 live, added: "Rashford is on fire right now.

"He was probably the difference between the two teams."

Rashford's form since the World Cup has, in particular, been incredible.

The 25-year-old has scored 14 goals in his last 16 games, while his strike against Barcelona - a smart near-post finish - was his fourth in five Europa League games.

"Marcus Rashford is on smoke," ex-Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand tweeted.

He is on a new level, a level he hasn't been at until now, a level of consistency he hasn't been able to stay at until now.

"A fit, focused, direct, confident, deadly and potent Rashford is not to be messed with."

Those watching Rashford's performance at home were similarly enthused by his display.

"Ten Hag has turned Rashford into some monster," commentated Michael on Twitter, while Kaden added: "Bold statement but I'm calling it, Rashford is the best striker in the world.

"He had a few tough seasons at United but this season he has come into his element. Scored practically every game whether it is at the Camp Nou on a Thursday night or at a cold Elland Road on a Sunday afternoon."

Thursday night highlighted just how much more there is to Rashford than goals.

He played a huge role in Manchester United's second, darting inside a defender from a short corner before driving a ball across the face of goal that deflected off Jules Kounde and into the back of the net.

Rashford's pace often gave the Barcelona defence nightmares and Kounde was fortunate not to be sent off when he tripped the frontman as he raced onto a long ball towards goal.

Should Kounde have been sent off?

For United boss Erik ten Hag, that moment was hugely influential in the final outcome of the game, with the home second leg to come next Thursday.

"I think it was a clear foul on Rashy (Rashford)," he told BT Sport. "You can discuss if it is inside or outside the box. If it is (outside), then it is a red card.

"It is a big influence not only on this game, but in this round. A referee cannot make such a mistake."

Rashford also felt United should have had a free-kick at least.

"I have not watched it back, but I don't understand why the linesman or the referee thinks I am going down there?" he added.

"I have touched it past him, my foot is in front of the ball and he hits my leg. It is clear contact and was 100 per cent a foul."

An all-time classic?

But while Ten Hag was angry with that decision - his reaction in the dugout earned him a yellow card - he accepted the game was worthy of gracing the biggest stages of European football.

After a high-tempo and open first half in which both sides had chances, the game exploded in the second half as former Chelsea full-back Marcos Alonso put Barcelona ahead before Rashford levelled almost immediately.

Kounde's own goal made it 2-1, but United were unable to hold on to claim a first win against Barcelona at the Nou Camp as Raphinha curled in an equaliser.

"I think it was a Champions League game, even more than that, so I really enjoyed the game," added Ten Hag.

"We have to finish it in Old Trafford. If the game is like this, I can imagine everyone will want to see that game."

Former West Ham and Chelsea stopper Green added: "If Uefa wanted an advert for the Europa League play-off games then this was it. It had absolutely everything and it was two massive teams going toe-to-toe."

United certainly gave La Liga leaders Barcelona an almighty scare as they became the first side to prevent them from winning in their last nine games.

The Old Trafford side have had some false dawns and difficult years since Sir Alex Ferguson stood down as manager in 2013, but former midfielder Owen Hargreaves believes Thursday's performance shows they are moving in the right direction.

"If anyone was wondering if Manchester United are the real deal or not - that just shows," he said on BT Sport.

"They came here and went toe-to-toe with Barcelona. They could have easily won the game."