Tonight is the return of Champions league, Quarterfinals of UEFA Champions LEAGUE.Spurs are hosting City while Porto visit Liverpool but I am here to talk about Manchester United vs Barcelona. A fixture which is arguably the best fixture out of all the 4 Quarter Finals fixtures since there is a history between these two clubs. The second leg is at Camp Nou, the same venue where current manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær scored the winner in 1999 against Bayern Munich in one of the best comebacks in UCL history. Talking about Barça, United lost both of their last 2 finals in this competition against one of the best Club sides under Pep Guardiola. United fans would do anything to watch their club getting a revenge against the Catalán giants after those 2 finals. These two sides also met each other in 2008 UCL Semi finals when Paul Scholes’ wonderful long range goal at Old Trafford was the difference between both these clubs and United eventually won the competition after beating Chelsea in the finals.
Now talking about the current season, Barça are having a brilliant season so far with league almost in their bag after 2-0 victory against title rivals Atletico Madrid on Saturday. The Catalán giants have lost 5 times in all competition this season (2 in the league, 2 in the cup and 1 in the Supercopa Cataluña against Girona). Manchester United on the other side have lost 11 games in all competition and are 6th on the Premier League table fighting for the top 4 finish. Barça want the Champions league and their 3rd treble. League is already in their one hand, They are playing a very tough Valencia side in the Cup final which they are still the favourites in but Champions league is the priority for the fans, players and everyone else as they’ve got knocked out at quarter stage 4 times in last 5 years. United on the other hand returned to UCL last season after winning the 16-17 Europa league. They were drawn against Sevilla at round of 16 and were favourites to win the tie but Wissam Ben Yedder had different plans and Sevilla knocked them out at Old Trafford. Roma too shocked the world by knocking Barça in the second leg with a spectacular comeback and legends say that Greek God is still celebrating. Manchester United have had a pretty mixed season so far. Under Mourinho, they were having a banter season. The Portuguese as always arrogant, egoistic only cared about himself and not the team. He didn’t use the squad properly and was so stubborn to change anything. There were rumours that Pogba and Mourinho didn’t go along well and to be honest this was confirmed when Mourinho started benching Pogba. They even lost to Spurs 3-0 at home, drew 2-2 against Arsenal at home. Lost to Derby in League cup and were lucky to go past group stage of Champions league thanks to the awful form of Valencia who despite struggling still managed to beat beat United at Mestalla and drew at Old Trafford. That away win at Turin in a late comeback and another late winner against Young Boys were the reason they finished 2nd in the group, just ons point above Valencia. The style of play was non existent and finally after a loss at Anfield, Mourinho was sacked. And then came Ole Ole Gunnar Solskjær, and they won their first game under him against Cardiff 5-1 away. It was the first time United won a game by scoring 5 goals since Sir Alex Ferguson. Everything started clicking, Pogba started performing in every game but there were still no specific style of play. Ole managed to changed the toxic environment and gave freedom to players which they hadn’t under Mourinho. May be it was just inferior quality of opponents but at least they were winning and that’s all fans want. Don’t they??
But then they played Psg and they were absolutely outplayed by them with Psg winning 2-0 without Neymar at Old Trafford. No team has ever came back from 2-0 away deficient but the second leg had everything. Drama, goals, courage, mentality, organisation, errors. After Lukaku scored from Kehrer’s error, Buffon then made a mistake and in the 87th minute, VAR gave United a very controversial penalty which Rashford scored and United made an unbelievable comeback. People may say they had their luck and it was true but they were decisive and well organised although PSG were easily the better side over two legs.
Olé still has been a good manager when it comes to motivating players and giving freedom but in no way he’s been a good tactical manager and at the end of the day, tactics matter and this is why United after a good start under Olé have lost 3 out of their last 4 games in all competition. And when it comes to tactics, Valverde has been hated by a certain section of culés for being a little more pragmatic, but he is tactically versatile and Barça are much better defensively this season compared to the previous season with Pique and Lenglet being one of the best CB pair in Europe. The midfield trio of Busquets, Arthur and Rakitic has been more than successful so far and an attack of Messi, Suárez and Dembélé can hurt anyone. But the worrying point for Barcelona is an awful away record in recent seasons especially at knockout stage with their last away Ucl knockout win came 3 seasons ago against Arsenal and Barça are winless ever since. Barcelona need to score today and if they won’t, things could go frustrating at Camp Nou.
Head to Head
There have been 11 official meetings between both the clubs. Barca with 4 wins, United with 3 wins and 4 draws.
Predicted line ups
Manchester United 1 Barcelona 2
Note-A special thanks to Shourjendra who is a United fan who helped me in explaining United’s season in details and Aniket for editing the article.