BARCELONA – Manchester United and their new manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, will return to the scene of arguably the greatest achievement in the club’s history when they take on Barcelona in the second leg of their Champions League quarterfinal at the Camp Nou on Tuesday.
In 1999, Solskjaer came off the bench to score the winning goal which sealed a dramatic injury-time 2-1 victory against German giants Bayern Munich in the final of the competition.
As well as claiming United’s second ever trophy in Europe’s top competition after a drought of 30 years, the Norwegian’s goal also completed an unprecedented treble of the English Premier League, the FA Cup and Champions League.
Trailing 1-0 from the first leg against Barcelona, Solskjaer will need United’s current crop of players to summon some of the spirit of that famous victory 20 years ago if they are to overcome the odds that are heavily stacked in Barça’s favor and advance to the semifinal of the competition.
“The 1999 final is a fantastic memory,” Solskjaer said in his pre-match press conference on Monday. “The last time I was on the pitch here was the only time. I don’t look back on that night too often; I’m just looking forward to seeing if we can play better against Barcelona.”
Barcelona returned from Old Trafford last week with a 1-0 win secured despite them failing to reach the dazzling heights they have managed over recent weeks that has seen them open up a comfortable lead at the top of their domestic league.
With Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez enduring a quiet night, United were unable to really trouble the Catalan club and failed to muster a single shot on target as goalkeeper Marc Andre Ter Stegen remained largely a spectator.
Barcelona, who are nine points clear with six games remaining and have all but sealed the league title, are likely to be close to full strength for the return leg, having rested a glut of starters for their weekend trip to bottom club Huesca in Spain’s La Liga.
The Blaugrana coach Ernesto Valverde said his players would need to play to their highest level and not allow United’s physicality and speed on the counter to influence the game.
“We’re aware of Manchester United’s strengths,” Valverde said in his pre-match press briefing. “We know we can’t let it become a game with chance after chance; we have to close off any space. If they get space to run into, they’re good.”
“There’s no fear, just huge excitement,” he added. “We’re all aware that we have a very tough game ahead of us if we want to reach the semifinals.”
Possible lineups (according to UEFA’s official website):
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Arthur; Messi, Suarez, Dembele.
Out: Rafinha (knee)
Doubtful: Vermaelen (hamstring)
Manchester United: De Gea; Dalot, Lindelöf, Smalling, Young; McTominay, Fred, Pogba; Rashford, Lukaku, Martial
Out: Bailly (concussion), Herrera (thigh), Shaw (suspended), Valencia (calf).