Did a hotel help United to beat Barcelona in 1984?
Ron Atkinson has hinted that a city-centre hotel may have helped his Manchester United side to beat Barcelona in that unforgettable European Cup Winners' Cup tie at Old Trafford, exactly 35 years ago.
Speaking on The Paddy Crerand Show on Monday evening, while also celebrating his 80th birthday, the former Reds manager recalled the famous atmosphere and talked of a cunning plan to unsettle the visitors from Catalonia.
Ahead of the fixture, Ron believes that the decision to put Barcelona in a hotel based right in the heart of Manchester may have led to the visitors' undoing.
"Somebody once asked me what the key moment in that game was. I said it was the night before when we made sure they were in a city hotel, with plenty of noise going about. Maradona liked all that and he joined in [laughs]."
"I can virtually remember every moment of the game," Atkinson added. "I’ve never ever been in any football match anywhere in the world that had the atmosphere that match had that night. It was absolutely unbelievable.
"Martin Edwards told me before the game: ‘you’ll hear a noise like you’ve never heard before.' It sounded like there must have been 200,000 fans at the game."
The Reds kicked off at Old Trafford needing to overturn a two-goal deficit after a defeat at the Nou Camp two weeks earlier. And it was Atkinson's team that took the lead after 20 minutes with Bryan Robson's bullet header setting the tone for what was set to be a night to remember for the 58,000 fortunate fans in attendance.
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Spurred on by the vociferous crowd, the Reds then forced the hosts into a series of mistakes. Five minutes into the second half Barcelona's keeper, Urruti, was unable to sufficiently clear a poor back pass and moments later parried the ball straight into the path of Robson, who levelled the scores on aggregate.
Old Trafford didn't wait long for the winner, which came three minutes later when Norman Whiteside's header fell to Frank Stapleton, who lashed the ball into the net. That proved to be the difference and United advanced to the semi-finals.
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Thirty-five years on, Atkinson hopes that the United squad of 2019 will emulate the success his side had against the Spanish giants.
"It’s going to be a tremendously hard game for Barca. It’s a hard game for United too. I must admit I didn’t give them a chance in Paris, because Paris Saint-Germain in Manchester looked terrific.
"Anything is possible. It would need United to play absolutely at the top of their game. Play at the top of their game and they can do it."
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