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A look back at classic Manchester United Barcelona encounters at Old Trafford

by Conner Botterill

Manchester United and Barcelona meet in their Europa League knockout round, second leg, this evening.

Last week’s first leg was a barnstorming, helter-skelter affair which ended level and did more than whet the appetite for tonight’s decider.

Barcelona are no strangers to Old Trafford and the grand old stadium is bracing itself for another memorable 90 minutes. Here we look at some of the stand out games between the two clubs, at the home of the Red Devils.

Barca’s trip to Old Trafford in 1984 saw Maradona and co. arrive in Manchester defending a 2-0 lead from the first leg of their European Cup Winners Cup Quarter-final. Given the strength of the Barca side and the two goal disadvantage, United needed a miracle.

United’s captain marvel Bryan Robson got Ron Atkinson’s men off to the perfect start, nodding home in the 23rd minute to half the deficit. Robson then doubled his tally to draw United level, just minutes into the second half.

Driven on by Robson, United quickly went in search of a winner. Three minutes after the Captain’s equaliser, Frank Stapleton sent Old Trafford delirious with a close range finish that was enough to send United through; 3-0 on the night and 3-2 on aggregate.

To this day, the night remains one of the most unforgettable in United’s history, with those in attendance still widely regarding it as the best atmosphere Old Trafford has ever seen.

Barca’s next visit came in 1994, in the Group Stage of the Champions League.

United got off to the perfect start with Mark Hughes giving them the lead, just inside 20 minutes. However, a lethal Barcelona side soon flipped the game on its head with the irrepressible Romario and uber-talented Bakero both scoring before half time to give the Spaniard’s the upper hand.

However, United salvaged a point through a goal that lives long in the memory; Lee Sharpe’s impudent flick from a Roy Keane cross, with just 10 minutes left, ensured both sides left Old Trafford with a point.

The unforgettable 98/99 season saw Barca travel to Manchester late in 1998, in what proved to be another unforgettable Champions League Group Stage game.

United got off to a flyer, scoring twice in the opening 25 minutes, though a Ryan Giggs header and a Paul Scholes finish. A lead they maintained until half-time.

Barca started the second half the same way United started the first and quickly restored order through Sonny Anderson and Giovani penalty. A memorable David Beckham free kick handed the advantage back to United before Luis Enrique slotted home another Barca penalty to share the spoils at 3-3.

United eventually qualified from the Group which included Bayern Munich and Brondby and went on to complete the treble in what remains the most historic season in the club’s history.

Barcelona then stood in the way of United and Champions League final against Chelsea in 2008, with Lionel Messi et al. travelling to Old Trafford after a 0-0 draw in the Nou Camp.

It was a tense affair in which the away goal rule meant Barca knew just one goal would hand them a huge advantage on the night. It was going to take a moment of magic to decide it.

Enter Paul Scholes. The United legend picked up the ball 30 yards away from the Barca goal and unleashed a trademark strike into the top corner of Victor Valdes’ net, midway through the first half. The goal was etched into United’s history as Fergie’s men held on valiantly to claim their spot in the Moscow final.

If tonight’s game holds half the drama of the aforementioned, we are set for another classic.

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