Manchester United v Barcelona: A heavyweight clash with a glittering history

By Sports Desk March 15, 2019

Manchester United were on Friday drawn against Barcelona in the Champions League quarter-finals, evoking memories of some wonderful European encounters.

The two heavyweights first met in 1984 with an incredible two-legged tie in the Cup Winners' Cup setting the benchmark for what was to follow.

Here, Omnisport examines five of the best meetings between the clubs.


Manchester United 3 Barcelona 0 (European Cup Winners' Cup quarter-final, second leg, March 21, 1984)

Still talked about by United fans of a certain vintage as one of the best nights in the club's history. Having lost the first leg 2-0 at Camp Nou, United were heavy underdogs but a Barcelona side containing Diego Maradona and Bernd Schuster were overwhelmed amid a frenzied atmosphere at Old Trafford. Bryan Robson scored either side of half-time to level the tie on aggregate before Frank Stapleton popped up with the winner eight minutes into the second period. United could not go all the way, though, losing to Juventus in the last four.

Manchester United 2 Barcelona 1 (European Cup Winners' Cup final, May 15, 1991)

Mark Hughes scored twice to see off Johan Cruyff's Barcelona in Rotterdam. Having endured a disappointing spell at Barca before returning to Old Trafford in 1988, Hughes took revenge on the Catalan club by putting Alex Ferguson's side 2-0 up inside 74 minutes. Ronald Koeman pulled one back but United held on to claim their second European crown.

Barcelona 4 Manchester United 0 (Champions League Group A, November 2, 1994)

Romario and Hristo Stoichkov ran riot as United, and defensive pair Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister in particular, were destroyed by Cruyff's 'Dream Team'. Bulgarian Stoichkov scored twice and Brazil great Romario once with full-back Albert Ferrer adding a late fourth.

Manchester United 0 Barcelona 2 (Champions League final, May 27, 2009)

After beating Chelsea in Moscow 12 months earlier, United were bidding to become the first club to retain the Champions League title but came unstuck against Pep Guardiola's men. Samuel Eto'o put Barca ahead inside 10 minutes and Lionel Messi doubled their lead with a rare header to complete a memorable treble of Champions League, LaLiga and Copa del Rey triumphs.

Barcelona 3 Manchester United 1 (Champions League final, May 28, 2011)

Messi was to prove a key figure again as Barcelona, who overcame arch-rivals Real Madrid in the semi-finals, emerged victorious at Wembley. Wayne Rooney cancelled out Pedro's opener but Messi fired home from the edge of the area before David Villa made it 3-1.

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    Messi and Ronaldo both crashed out of the 2018 World Cup on the same day back in June, as the campaigns of both Argentina and Portugal ended in the last 16.

    The two men -– each a five-time winner of the Ballon d'Or – have missed six matches for their countries since then and, as fate would have it, their comebacks also coincided, although their returns brought little success.

    Here, we take a look at how the biggest stars in world football endured a night of frustration on the international stage.

     

    Lionel Messi - Argentina 1 Venezuela 3

    Messi returned as skipper for this international friendly in Madrid, but was left stunned as Salomon Rondon fired Venezuela into a sixth-minute lead.

    The 31-year-old showed flashes of his ability and his cross to set up a Lautaro Martinez header from close range was one such example.

    Martinez got a powerful head to the delivery but found goalkeeper Wuilker Farinez in inspired form as he made a fantastic reaction save to clear the ball over the crossbar.

    Farinez then pushed a Messi strike from the edge of the box – his only shot on target – over the bar as Argentina desperately sought a leveller, but Jhon Murillo deservedly doubled Venezuela's lead with a superb strike from 18 yards just before half-time.

    Messi was involved in the counter-attack that ultimately led to Martinez pulling a goal back, but his influence waned thereafter and Josef Martinez wrapped up the shock result from the penalty spot 15 minutes from time.

    It was later announced that Messi will miss Tuesday's clash with Morocco due to a pelvic injury.

    Cristiano Ronaldo - Portugal 0 Ukraine 0

    Portugal began their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign as defending champions but their challenge got off to an underwhelming start against Ukraine, despite the return of Ronaldo.

    It was not for lack of effort on the Juventus forward's part, with Ronaldo taking seven shots on goal and landing three on target.

    The 34-year-old was denied twice in quick succession by Andriy Pyatov in the first half.

    First, Ronaldo tried to squeeze a shot between the legs of the goalkeeper, who reacted quickly to make the save, and four minutes later Pyatov got down low to his right to keep out another effort after the former Real Madrid man had created space for the shot.

    Andre Silva could not apply the finish to a Ronaldo knockdown early in the second period and, with time running out, Portugal's star man leapt highest to connect with a William Carvalho cross but directed his header straight at Pyatov.

    Portugal host Serbia in their second match of the campaign on Monday.

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    Lionel Messi will miss Argentina's friendly against Morocco on Tuesday due to a pelvic injury.

    Messi made his return to international football in Friday's shock 3-1 friendly defeat to Venezuela in Madrid.

    However, it was subsequently confirmed that the Barcelona star had suffered a problem during the game and will not travel to Tangier.

    Messi missed six matches during a self-imposed post-World Cup exile from the national team before making his comeback at the Wanda Metropolitano, but goals from Salomon Rondon and Jhon Murillo saw Argentina trailing 2-0 at half-time.

    Captain Messi was involved in the move that saw Lautaro Martinez pull one back for Lionel Scaloni's men, but Josef Martinez made sure of the win for Venezuela from the spot.

    Messi, who played the full 90 minutes, previously retired from Argentina duty in 2016 following the team's defeat in the Copa America Centenario, before reversing the decision to return for the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.

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  • Sterling the symbol and superstar of Southgate's England Sterling the symbol and superstar of Southgate's England

    It was the sense of inevitability that really showed how far Raheem Sterling has come.

    When the livewire Manchester City forward twisted the yard of space he needed inside the Czech Republic box and drew back his weaker foot, Wembley expected.

    Sterling whipped an unerring finish past visiting goalkeeper Jiri Pavlenka for his second of the night. A deflected hat-trick goal sealed a dominant 5-0 win for Gareth Southgate's team, who are threatening to turn the World Cup wave they rode last year into a relentless, rolling tide across international football.

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    His tireless, intelligent running made him a nightmare for defenders in all six of his tournament appearances, but the goals would not come. A couple of botched chances in the quarter-final win over Sweden had something of a rabbit-in-headlights quality. The openings looked as much a burden for his twisting, skilful frame as they were opportunities to be the hero.

    England's general drop-off whenever Sterling was substituted in Russia underlined his importance to the cause, but a forward failing to score will always divide opinion. His first 45 England appearances brought two goals.

    But on Friday at a national stadium a stone's throw from his childhood home, Sterling was a sure thing, as had been the case in the EFL Cup final here last month.

    Then, a nerveless Sterling dispatched the decisive penalty to give City shoot-out glory against Chelsea. He was a reliable difference-maker, a match-winner par excellence. Unfortunately for the Czech Republic, this is now a role he revels in for club and country.

    England's 24th-minute opener came from the sort of close-range finish Sterling is close to making his trademark. Harry Kane and the effervescent Jadon Sancho pulled the away defence apart and their fellow attacker slid home.

    "Tap-in merchant" will be the cry from the ever-thinning band of detractors, but everyone would be doing it if it was that easy. Sterling's reading of the game is razor sharp, his movement judicious and never far from an opponent's weakest point.

    A panicked mess of a back four combined to send him tumbling in first-half stoppage time, with Kane effectively sealing the points from the penalty spot.

    Sterling had ripped open a team set up for stubborn resistance. After the Czech Republic threatened in an attacking sense early in the second half, he administered the finishing blows before resting up on the bench as Callum Hudson-Odoi became England's youngest competitive debutant and brought about an own goal of the slapstick variety from Tomas Kalac.

    When he celebrated that second goal – the one where he had beleaguered defenders and the Wembley masses in the palm of his hand – Sterling unveiled a shirt paying tribute to Damary Dawkins, the 13-year-old Crystal Palace youth-team player who tragically passed away earlier this week following a battle with Leukaemia.

    Not for the first time over recent months, Sterling the man was every bit as impressive as Sterling the footballer. He has become the symbol of an England side with an adoring public that has responded emphatically to Southgate's demands for maturity and expressiveness.

    The Sterling who arrived in Russia to diligently carry out a brief of the hard yards was an excellent footballer and a Premier League champion. Now, he is so much better. He is a superstar and an inspiration.

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