Monday, 25 May 2009

Barcelona vs Manchester United through the years

author: John Brewin
source: ESPNsoccernet
date: 8 May 2009

Andres Iniesta's 90th minute goal may have set Chelsea into a furious rage but it seems Barcelona v Manchester United is a highly popular choice for this season's final. Few outside the Stamford Bridge area wanted a repeat of last year's final, and it is hoped that the finalists will again show off the attacking flair that has guided them to Rome. An anti-climax is a possibility, though the two clubs have shared some classic past encounters.

Season 1983-84: European Cup Winners' Cup
Manchester United win 3-2 on aggregate

This now defunct competition was an old-fashioned two-legged knock-out. United, managed by Ron Atkinson, had qualified after winning the FA Cup after a final replay with Brighton and Hove Albion. Barcelona meanwhile, suffering a decade without a Liga title, had won the Copa Del Rey by beating Real Madrid in an unforgettable final. In that game, Diego Maradona had finally begun to look the part under the coaching of compatriot Cesar Luis Menotti.

March 1984 saw a meeting of two clubs both largely confined to cup successes during that era. The first leg took the tie to the Camp Nou where United put up a decent account of themselves but fell to an own-goal from young Scottish defender Graeme Hogg and a late blockbuster from Juan Carlos Rojo.

Back at Old Trafford it seemed United had been handed mountain to climb. Yet on a night still remembered by fans of an evermore August vintage, the roof was very nearly taken off the Stretford End by a United performance matched by the ear-splitting baying from the stands. Bryan Robson, the subject of rumoured bids from Juventus and AC Milan, put Maradona in the shade with the type of lung-bursting and inspirational performance that gave him the monicker "Captain Marvel".

watch a video of these games here

Season 1990-91: European Cup Winners' Cup Final
Manchester United win 2-1

Seven years later, Robson was an elder statesman at United, while Maradona had departed Catalunya the summer after his only appearance at Old Trafford. "Big Ron" was long gone too and plain old Alex Ferguson had been given time to start the rebuilding process that had first borne fruit when his team won the FA Cup Final in 1990.

Barcelona awaited in Rotterdam, coached by Johan Cruyff and freshly crowned the champions of Spain. This was English clubs' first season back in European competition after the Heysel ban. Ferguson set out to contain, even placing striker Brian McClair as a man-marker on Ronald Koeman, Barca's influential sweeper. Mark Hughes had suffered an unhappy spell at the Camp Nou before being returned to United.

Hughes' first goal came from a Robson free-kick in the 67th minute. Seven minutes later he proved he could score great goals too. Powering on to a long ball, he outpaced the Barca defence, carved past keeper Carles Busquets and from an impossible angle he sliced in a shot that soon nestled in the side of the net. Ferguson had picked up his first European silverware as United boss.

watch a video of this game here

Season 1994-95: Champions League Group Stage
2-2 and 4-0 to Barcelona

Three years on and United had ended their league title drought. A second title saw them qualify for the embryonic Champions League, then made up of league champions only. Barcelona, along with IFK Gothenburg and Galatasaray, made up the quartet. United were hampered by the swingeing foreigner regulations imposed at the time. They were allowed to play just three "foreigners", which also included those players from the UK not of English birth.

The first game at Old Trafford saw United struggle against Cruyff's "Dream Team". An experiment of playing the pacy Paul Parker at sweeper to deal with Romario failed when the Brazilian equalised a Hughes goal. Jose Maria Bakero put Barca into a deserved lead before Lee Sharpe equalised with a brazen of estimable cheek, back-heeling in a Roy Keane cross.

Having been dealt a fair warning, United's naivety was fully exposed in the return game in Spain. Ferguson took an enforced gamble on dropping Peter Schmeichel for the underused reserve keeper Gary Walsh and lost, big time. Hristo Stoichkov scored twice while Romario and Albert Ferrer grabbed the others on a night that had United fans reaching for the Spanish brandy in shame.

watch a video of these games here

Season 1998-99: Champions League Stage
3-3 and 3-3

The summer of 1998 was a watershed time for Manchester United. Not only had they been unseated from the Premiership title, they were also the subject of a massive takeover bid by BSkyB. In amongst the intrigue of due diligence and monopolies there was actually football to be played. These twin encounters were the game at its thrilling best. Both were classics.

The first encounter took place in Manchester and United set off at a rattling pace, Ryan Giggs scoring a great header, Scholes soon had a second. Sonny Anderson's goal after half-time signalled a breathless half in which Beckham, in the process of rehabilitating himself after that sending off in the World Cup, scored a tremendous free-kick. That had put United back in the lead after a goal from Giovanni had levelled matters. Barca passed United to death from then on until Nicky Butt was adjudged to have handled a goal-bound shot and sent off. Luis Enrique converted the penalty.

Two months later, United were beginning to hit the stride that would eventually carry them to a Treble. Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole showed off a telepathic partnership by grabbing three goals between them for United. Yorke, signed in August, scored a long-ranger and a header. That came either side of a thrilling exchange with Cole that resulted in the England striker smashing home. That put United 2-1 up but there was another man in form on the field.

Rivaldo was playing at his irresistible best, cancelling out Cole's goal with a free-kick which bedevilled a visibly angry Schmeichel. Then, after Yorke's second, the Brazilian controlled a Sergi cross and bicycle-kicked in the sixth goal of the match. He was to be denied a hat-trick when his thumping shot smashed off the crossbar. For either of the teams to win would have been an injustice.

watch a video of these games here

Season 2007-08 Champions League semi-final
United win 1-0 on aggregate

Just under a decade on, the pair met up again in a far more tactical affair. Ferguson had abandoned gung-ho in favour of a tactical approach. Barcelona meanwhile, were in the final straight of Frank Rijaard's tenure at the Camp Nou. The tie was billed as Cristiano Ronaldo versus Lionel Messi.

Both fluffed their lines. Ronaldo missed a penalty in the third minute of the tie while Messi played at half-pace with his injured thigh heavily strapped. Having gone so close to scoring, United then played as if they had decided to abandon attack altogether. Wayne Rooney and Ji-Sung Park played almost as auxiliary full-backs as Barca made waves of attacks that never really convinced of their potency.

The tie went to Manchester on a knife-edge and it was a veteran of the 1998 meetings who proved the assassin. Paul Scholes had previously not scored all season but that was forgotten when he lashed in an exocet missile of a strike. The rest of the game followed the pattern of the first leg but United held strong, if extremely nervously. Tension was the order of the night and Mancunian hearts were treated to many a flutter before the final whistle eventually sounded.

watch a video of this game here

read the full and original article here

Read more:
Barcelona cannot deal with Manchester United
Vidic on top of Barcelona's target list
Man United training focuses on defensive tactics

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