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Barcelona vs Manchester United: Seven of their best showdowns

By Michael Duah
Barcelona vs Manchester United: Seven of their best showdowns
Barcelona vs Manchester United: Seven of their best showdowns

What a cracker of a game we are expecting to see in the UEFA Champions League quarter-final between Barcelona and Manchester United.

On the one side, we have unarguably the best club in the world, Barcelona, and on the other, the indomitable spirit of Ole Gunnar Solskjær selection.

The two clubs are no strangers to each other.

They have met 11 times before, sharing the spoils with four wins for Barcelona and three for Man United and four draws. The goal ratio is slightly in favor of Barcelona with 20 goals against 15.

PrimeNewsGhana.com take a look back at seven memorable matches from the past between the two giants in European football.

1984: UNITED STUN BARCELONA ON UNFORGETTABLE NIGHT

Many mature folks, including Sir Bobby Charlton if memory serves, have sworn that Old Trafford has never sounded louder than this night. Bryan Robson has certainly said it was the greatest atmosphere he can remember at the old place.

Barcelona had won the first leg of this European Cup-Winners Cup quarter-final tie courtesy of an own goal from Graeme Hogg and a brilliant late strike from Rojo.

Few pundits gave Ron Atkinson's United hope of turning the tie round, but backed by a wildly excitable crowd, the hosts were simply inspired on the night.

Robson's diving header in the first half gave United hope, and then after the break their midfield lynchpin took advantage of a spill from Barcelona goalkeeper Javier Urruti to double the lead and level the tie.

It was only a couple of minutes later, with Old Trafford now at fever pitch, that Robson headed across goal for Frank Stapleton to score a third.

Robson was chaired off the pitch. You can always tell a night is extra special when players are carried shoulder-high by supporters. Later examples have included David Beckham at Villa Park and Sir Alex Ferguson at the Nou Camp, both in 1999.

With United generally starved of success at the time, United's 3-0 win made for a truly famous night, and personally speaking this was a match I will always associate with my footballing infancy.

United were ravaged by injuries in their semi-final against Juventus, particularly in the first leg when Alan Davies scored in a 1-1 draw, and the Italian side won 2-1 in the second match in Turin to reach the final.

1991: UNITED CLAIM MEMORABLE WIN IN THE ROTTERDAM RAIN

The ban on English clubs imposed after the Heysel disaster lasted five years, but it might as well have been an eternity. It seemed fitting that United were the first club back in continental competition.

Even the staunchest United fan would have to admit that they didn't have the toughest of runs to the European Cup-Winners Cup final, with Wrexham, Montpellier and Legia Warsaw beaten en route to the Rotterdam showpiece.

United hadn't been in a final since that fabled Wembley night in 1968, and they were second favorites for this one.

A powering Steve Bruce header from a free-kick helped in by Mark Hughes on the line, put United in front. And then, magnificently, Hughes produced a moment which summed up his whole brilliant career, as he took the ball round the keeper and when it looked like he was too far from goal smashing a marvelous low shot into the bottom corner.

Ronald Koeman pulled a late goal back for Barcelona and United were forced to hold on desperately in the closing stages to seal victory.

Ferguson was starting to make a habit of celebrating in the rain. His previous European success with Aberdeen had come in pouring rain in Gothenburg eight years earlier.

United's ecstatic supporters sang 'Always Look on the Bright Side of Life' and the club were winners on the continent again.

Barcelona would of course bounce back to win the grandest prize of all at Wembley 12 months later.

1994: BARCELONA HAND OUT EUROPEAN LESSON TO UNITED 

When I hear that wonderful Champions League music, I think firstly of the autumn of 1994. This is when the competition was new, truly exciting, and very much still a learning process for United.

United had drawn with Barcelona 2-2 in a splendid affair at Old Trafford before they took a real beating in the Nou Camp. To be fair, the rule restricting the number of foreigners that could play didn't help United on the night, with Ferguson choosing to play Gary Walsh instead of Peter Schmeichel, but you could only sit back and admire the brilliant skills of the hosts.

Hristo Stoichkov scored early to open the floodgates, and Romario doubled the lead on the stroke of half-time. Stoichkov scored again after the break and Albert Ferrer put the gloss on a thumping win with a fourth for the hosts late on.

Barcelona were at the top of their game on the night, at times passing round a bemused United team at will, and were a true joy to watch. United were outplayed, but the lessons learnt by the manager would prove invaluable in future campaigns.

Worse was still to come for United that autumn, when a shoddy performance and 3-1 defeat in Gothenburg saw them make an early exit from the competition.

1998: THRILLER AT NOU CAMP LEAVES EUROPE BREATHLESS

Much had changed in the four years since United's last visit to the grand cathedral of the Nou Camp.

Ferguson's men were now considered one of the favourites to win the competition, and after a wonderfully exciting 3-3 draw at Old Trafford, hopes were high for a match to remember in Barcelona.

What we saw that night bordered on fantasy football, with sublime goals and skills illuminating the huge crowd and millions watching on television.

Sonny Anderson blasted Barcelona in front inside a minute as the visitors made a shaky start, but Dwight Yorke fired United level and soon after the break the Trinidad and Tobago striker magically combined with Andy Cole, with the latter coolly putting United in front. 

Rivaldo's deflected free-kick made it 2-2, but Yorke headed in David Beckham's superb cross to give United the lead again. Rivaldo's brilliant overhead gave Barca hope of qualifying, but the same player struck the bar late on and the hosts were also denied victory at the last by a typically superb Schmeichel.

The entertainment was breathless and the match must remain one of the most enjoyable ever seen in Europe's premier competition.

Few people seem to recall that Barcelona were knocked out that night, and painfully so with the final to be staged at the Nou Camp. United of course would return six months later for one of the most unforgettable nights in the history of the game. That late victory over Bayern Munich in 1999 would put Ferguson, his players, and United supporters in heaven.

2008: UNITED EDGE OUT BARCELONA TO REACH MOSCOW FINAL

United were desperate to add to their European Cup wins of 1968 and 1999, but faced the stiffest of tests against Barcelona.

Cristiano Ronaldo missed an early penalty in the first leg at the Nou Camp, but United's priority in that game was quite clearly defence.

Barcelona could consider themselves a touch unfortunate not to take a lead to Old Trafford, while Ferguson was hailing United's professionalism

The second leg was a tense affair, with the atmosphere at Old Trafford crackling. In fact Sir Alex said it was the greatest atmosphere at the ground in his time as manager. It probably was the loudest since that match against Barcelona in 1984.

Paul Scholes, who may have been on something of a personal mission after missing the 1999 final through suspension, blasted a simply marvellous goal to put United in front.

The second half seemed to last an age for United supporters, with Barcelona enjoying the majority of possession and sniffing their chance to equalise. The breathless climax didn't do any favours for the old ticker, but United survived.

Sir Alex danced with delight on the touchline and United had reached their third European Cup final. It was another of those emotional nights for United fans the world over.

2009: BARCELONA OUTCLASS UNITED TO WIN EUROPEAN CUP

United supporters should probably stop reading now. It seems strange to think now, when you consider all the plaudits that have come Barcelona's way since, but United were actually favourites heading into the Rome final.

The first few minutes were no indicator of the match at all, with United starting brightly and tearing into Barcelona. Everything changed when Samuel Eto'o put Barcelona ahead. United's opponents visibly grew in confidence, but Ferguson's men retreated into their shell.

Barcelona's passing was a joy to watch at times, with Xavi and Andres Iniesta controlling the match in midfield, and some of United's players little more than bystanders.

It came as little surprise when Lionel Messi headed a second goal for Barcelona after the break, and Pep Guardiola's men coasted to victory. Barcelona claimed a third European Cup to the delight of their delirious fans.

Ferguson later claimed that he knew the reasons for United's defeat. Time will tell on that one, I guess.

2011: BARCELONA'S MESSI MASTERCLASS CARVES MANCHESTER UNITED OPEN AT WEMBLEY

Beneath the soaring Wembley arch, Barcelona ascended to new heights. Inspired by an exhilarating Lionel Messi, Pep Guardiola’s team swept past Manchester United in a thrilling performance and, with their third Champions League title in the last six seasons, they earned the right to be called one of the very greatest club sides in the history of the game.

United had their moments of sporadic resistance and Wayne Rooney, who fought defiantly, scored a superb equaliser in the first half but ultimately Barcelona were simply too good. There might have been parity in the half-time scoreline but, as Messi and David Villa scored in the second half, the gap in class was impossible to deny.

READ ALSO: UEFA Champions League draw: Barca meets Man United as Liverpool play Porto

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