Old Trafford.

The day before the big game

Tuesday 09 April 2019 10:54

It's the eve of one of the biggest games in world football as Manchester United meet Barcelona at Old Trafford in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

Follow our live updates ahead of the first leg...

17:34 The main piece of team news arising from Valverde's press conference centred on his French miidfielder Ousmane Dembélé and whether he'll be passed fit to face United. "We’ll see how he is in tonight’s training session. We have to be aware that in the last game [second leg against Lyon], we perhaps forced it a little. We are not going to run that risk this time just in case it reoccurs. We’re not going to rush into any decisions."

17:26 Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde began his media briefing by citing what he sees as three key assets for United in the first leg. "We have to be careful from set pieces against Manchester United, because of their speed on the counter attack, and also with the impact that their fans can have," he warned. "They are opponents who have been gaining strength in the Champions League and they go into this game with high morale, wanting to show what they can do and, of course, they want to go through."

When asked if the Reds' comeback win over Paris Saint-Germain serves as a warning to Barcelona, Pique replied:  "I think the PSG tie is a great example. You cannot leave Manchester United alive. If you can beat them by scoring a lot of goals, you have to do it because they have a great team and have great history. They showed in the second leg in Paris, even though they played with a lot of young lads from the Academy, they won and they qualified in the last minute with a penalty. It’s a great example for us. We have to concentrate from the first minute to the last minute. We know Manchester United are very dangerous and we have to play our best game to qualify."

17:05 Former United defender Gerard Pique was the first Barcelona representative to speak at our visitors' press conference, before his boss Ernesto Valverde separately held court. The Spain centre-back said: "I remember Ole as a great team-mate. When I arrived here I was 17, very young, and he was one of the older players. For sure, he helped me a lot to adapt to the club, to the city, to the country. He was at the end of his career and he had some problems with injuries. But when you were training with him, you could see that he had that quality to score goals. It was a great experience to play alongside him."
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Chris Smalling have addressed the media at Old Trafford.

15:05 Chris Smalling conducted a number of interviews and suggested United need to bring Premier League intensity into the game with the Spanish leaders. There is no doubt he is relishing the chance to snuff out the threat of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Philippe Coutinho and company on the night.

15:00 We've just returned from the press conference at the No.7 suite at Old Trafford. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer also spoke to MUTV - look out for that interview tomorrow as he discussed a number of points that were not debated with the wider media. What comes across most is always his positive personality and unstinting belief when talking about Manchester United. Let's hope that optimism rubs off on the supporters on Wednesday as he is hoping for an atmosphere similar to the one against Liverpool.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer watches on as United train on Tuesday morning.

14:15 When asked by a reporter about Paul Pogba's future, Ole replied: "Paul is looking forward to tomorrow. He’s a Man United player, he’s one of our bigger performers on the big stage. The game against PSG was not his greatest moment and he is only focused on playing well against Barcelona.I cannot see him not playing for Manchester United next season either." 

14:13 Ole also discussed facing Barcelona's star man and whether he has any specific plans to negate his threat. "What kind of plan can you have to stop one of the best players in the world? I think, as Chris says, we are looking forward to the opportunity. But this season we played against Juventus and Ronaldo, PSG with Mbappe - Neymar didn’t play. We’ve played Chelsea with [Eden] Hazard. [Luis] Suarez, [Phillipe] Coutinho and Messi - they’ll keep our defenders on their toes so let’s see how we manage tomorrow." 

14:11 Chris Smalling was asked by reporters if facing Lionel Messi is something to enjoy or be worried about. "It’s something to relish I think," the defender said. "This season we’ve been lucky enough to play against [Cristiano] Ronaldo and [Kylian] Mbappe and they’re all challenges I think that I definitely relish and I think players at this club relish. I say take it on." 

14:08 Ole was also asked about the availability of former Barcelona player Alexis Sanchez. “Today was his first training session with the team," Solskjaer told reporters. "He did lots of recovery work and is now injury free. Now he’ll step up and train with team. He will probably be in the squad for West Ham on Saturday and let's see how much, and if he plays, but is not going to be able to join in tomorrow.”

14:05 Marcus Rashford's fitness was also enquired about, after the striker did some individual training work earlier. "He needed an extra warm up and hopefully he won't get a reaction," answered Ole. "He joined parts of it [the main session] at the end but he couldn't join in the boxes, which is the fun part of training."

Our press conference is under way in the No.7 suite at Old Trafford, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sitting alongside Chris Smalling at the top table. The event opens with a question on the four players who didn't train in front of the media this morning - is there a chance that any of them could return to the team? "We still hope that Nemanja [Matic] can be ready," replied the manager, "but Ander [Herrera] is probably out. Antonio [Valencia] and Eric [Bailly] are definitely out."

Ole waiting on fitness of three players


The boss told us that a trio of recent absentees are bidding to be fit for the Barcelona game.

12:40 We have now published a gallery of the best shots from the Aon Training Complex this morning. The countdown continues to the manager's press conference and, in little over an hour, we'll be in place with MUTV as we wait to speak to Ole before he faces the wider media. You suspect there is nothing about this tie that will faze somebody who won the lot in his playing career with the Reds.

11:48 Find out more about the training session here. Focus will switch to Old Trafford, around five-and-a-half miles away, and the next big event of the day as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Chris Smalling will perform their media duties from 14:00 BST. It will be interesting to see what Ole has to say about the absentees at the Aon Training Complex and, remember, the press conference is live on MUTV.

11:23 Here is a full list of the players who took part in training this morning - De Gea, Romero, Grant; Dalot, Darmian, Jones, Lindelof, Rojo, Shaw, Smalling, Young; Fred, Garner, Gomes, Lingard, Mata, McTominay, Pereira, Pogba; Alexis, Lukaku, Martial, Rashford.

11:19 Marcus Rashford joined in with the main group after undergoing some initial exercises on his own but there was no Antonio Valencia. There is plenty of talk here as to how United could line up if we are missing the players absent from training. We must reiterate this does not necessarily mean they will be unavailable. 



11:10 Players who have not appeared for the open training session include Ander Herrera and Nemanja Matic. Of course, Herrera missed the game at Wolves, while Matic was on the bench, but we will have to wait to see if Ole provides any update on their availability later. Certainly, it would be a blow if Herrera and Matic, often our first-choice selections in the middle of the park, are sidelined. Eric Bailly has also not taken part but Matteo Darmian is back.

United's squad hard at work at the Aon Training Complex.

11:05 The good news is Marcus Rashford has already been spotted - he missed the Premier League defeat at Wolves through injury. Alexis Sanchez is here too, he has been missing since the win over Southampton. Youngsters James Garner and Angel Gomes are also among those working out.

11:00 Ole is out on the training pitch and the players are set to follow. The sun is shining and you can sense the optimism around the place.

10:40 We have received notification that Chris Smalling will be the United player at the press conference at Old Trafford this afternoon. Former Red Gerard Pique is set to be on duty for the visitors. Of course, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ernesto Valverde are also addressing the media. Ole will provide an exclusive interview to MUTV as well.

10:30 It is an extremely busy day as we look ahead to Wednesday's Champions League clash with Barcelona so we are consolidating the main stories as they happen here on this page. We have an open session at the Aon Training Complex in half an hour's time, when some clues will be supplied on our team news, followed by a flurry of activity at Old Trafford. Both clubs will stage press conferences - United's at 14:00 BST and Barcelona's three hours later. At 18:00 BST, Lionel Messi and co will train on the pitch.