A little less than 20 years ago, Manchester United witnessed one of the most magical moments in the club’s history. And tomorrow, it will be another special day at the Nou Camp, as the Red Devils travel to Catalonia to face Barcelona in the Champions League quarter-final, attempting to turn around a 1-0 first leg deficit.
It is fair to say that it hasn’t been a case of ‘Full Speed Ahead Barcelona‘ this time for Ole Solskjaer’s men, but there is still hope in a lot of the United faithful that even this mountain can be climbed. As Solskjaer himself says- mountains are meant to climbed.
There will be inspiration to draw from the miracle in Paris that unfolded last month, but this task will be more than a mountain. It will be a Mount Everest to climb. Barcelona are not Paris Saint-Germain by any means.
They know how this competition works. They’ve played in it long enough and have players who have played in it long enough. The way they approached the first leg showed that. They were happy to take the sting out of the game whenever they had the chance.
They have the know-how of the competition; something PSG didn’t. And that makes United’s task much tougher. Considering the fact that its a younger United side, they will know what they’re up against.
But they would not have to wander far to seek more inspiration. Roma, in miraculous circumstances, had dumped the Catalans out last season after picking up a 3-o win over them at the Stadio Olimpico in the second.
In that case, Roma had the advantage of playing the second leg in Rome. This time Barcelona have the advantage of that. But United had no advantage at all in Paris, but somehow managed to defy all the possible odds to do what no one expected.
Solskjaer has downplayed the historical factor about the game in the pre-match press conference. But the man who was the centre-piece of that moment in 1999 is only keeping it buried deep inside him, trying hard to not get ahead of himself.
United are one nil down quite like they were against Bayern Munich that day. And they had Roy Keane and Paul Scholes suspended after their bookings in the semi-final against Juventus. United will have Luke Shaw suspended, with Diogo Dalot likely to play left-back for him.
And it will be a bigger miracle than the one in 1999 or the one in Paris last month. Also because Barcelona have the best player in the world in their team. And he’s a lion who was awakened at the Theatre of Dreams last week when he was left in a pool of blood.
But when Lionel Messi smells blood, teams should pray for their lives. And at the Nou Camp, he’s a different beast altogether. Since United have summoned him, they could be in for a night to forget too.
The last few games have not gone too well for Solskjaer, but that doesn’t matter too much. In games as big as this, form goes out of the window. The more intelligent teams can win and Solskjaer has shown that he has the tactical know how of digging games out and playing in different ways.
Will Manchester United full off another impressive Champions League comeback?