Paul Pogba takes on Barcelona players in a Tour 2017 pre-season match

Barcelona tie is what the Champions League is all about

Friday 15 March 2019 12:09

Manchester United and Barcelona. Two of the greatest clubs in the world who should be at home on the biggest stage.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may not have had the easiest of draws since taking caretaker charge of the Reds and this Champions League quarter-final draw was no different.

United will face one of the favourites to lift the trophy in Madrid on 1 June, something the Catalans would clearly love to do, but it is a two-legged tie that every Reds follower, and all football fans, should relish.

Skipper Bryan Robson is chaired off the pitch by jubilant fans in 1984.

For those worried about the size of the task facing Ole and his team, remember how we were written off completely at the time of the draw with Paris Saint-Germain. Yes, Lionel Messi and co are firmly on course for another La Liga title but some pundits feel they are not at the all-conquering level of the Pep Guardiola teams who defeated United in both the 2009 and 2011 finals. 

Those chastening experiences will want to be avenged but we have also recorded some memorable victories over the Nou Camp outfit.

We triumphed in our very first European meeting, in the 1983/84 Cup-Winners' Cup third round, despite trailing 2-0 from the away first leg. If even half the noise levels of that Old Trafford occasion can be replicated in 2019, as a Bryan Robson-inspired comeback clinched the most stunning of aggregate wins, then truly anything is possible this time around.

The next time our paths crossed, we came out on top again - in the European Cup-Winners' Cup final of 1991. Rotterdam was another night when memories were made that will last forever. 'Always look on the bright side of life' was the anthem as Mark Hughes struck twice against his former club to allow Robson to lift the trophy when most people considered Johan Cruyff's 'Dream Team' to be shoo-ins for the silverware.

In the 1994/95 Champions League group stages, Lee Sharpe's clever backheel featured in a 2-2 draw with Barca at Old Trafford, before a heavy 4-0 defeat in the away leg as an under-strength team, due to the foreigners rule at the time, taught Alex Ferguson's side some valuable lessons of elite European football.

Mike Phelan and two-goal Mark Hughes parade the trophy in Rotterdam in 1991.

There were two 3-3 draws during the Treble season, that Ole will vividly recall, which showcased the array of attacking talent on show and, of course, the final at the end of that campaign 20 years ago when our Norwegian idol popped up to complete the dream turnaround in stoppage time.

One more reason why Solskjaer will not have any fears going into that famous footballing cauldron, considering he experienced the highest of highs there on that 26 May night.

Arguably, though, maybe the best blueprint for success in this upcoming last-eight encounter, aside from any notions of fate, nostalgia or romanticism, could lie in our next duel with Barcelona.

Paul Scholes was the matchwinner when Barcelona were beaten in the 2008 semi-finals.

It has to be one of the greatest tactical triumphs of Sir Alex Ferguson's entire spell in charge as United drew 0-0 in the Nou Camp and refused to let a missed penalty by Cristiano Ronaldo, and the lack of a crucial away goal, dampen our enthusiasm.

In front of another of the most vociferous, if nervous, atmospheres ever experienced at Old Trafford, Paul Scholes detonated a rocket past future Red Victor Valdes and we stood firm to shut out an incredibly talented side in both legs. A monumental effort which allowed us to get through to the 2008 final and, ultimately, win the competition on penalties against Chelsea in the Moscow rain. 

A year later, Barca had their revenge in the final in Rome. At Wembley, they fully deserved their 3-1 victory despite a goal from Wayne Rooney.

Antonio Valencia gets the better of Lionel Messi in our last competitive outing against Barcelona.

A sign that the pendulum has now swung in their favour? Possibly, but a lot of water has passed under the bridge since that disappointing evening in 2011.

The teams will look very different. Messi is still there, of course, and remains one of the best footballers on the planet. Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets are also still dressed in the blue and red. For United, Antonio Valencia started and Chris Smalling was an unused substitute.

So the cast list will, largely be a new one. New heroes are waiting to be acclaimed and these are two ties that will stir the emotions. With Ole at the wheel, it does feel like anything could be possible. A Spanish side has won the past five editions of the Champions League. Can United ensure that run will not be extended by another season? Bring it on!