United versus Barca: Heavyweight clash with an impressive memory
Manchester United were yesterday 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.
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.
In the European Cup Winners’ Cup final on 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.
At the Champions League Group A fixture on 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.
Also, at the Champions League final on 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.
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