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Manchester United and Barcelona’s fascinating history as they face off in quarter-final

Manchester United versus Barcelona is a contest that conjures up all that is good about continental competition.

These two heavyweights are preparing to do battle once again in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, with the first leg at Old Trafford on Wednesday and the return in the Nou Camp next Tuesday.

United and Barca have met many times down the years with the honours pretty evenly split.

We take a trip down memory lane and look back at all the classic meetings between these two famous names in European football.

1984: Captain marvel puts Maradona in the shade

Few gave United a prayer when they lost 2-0 in the Nou Camp in the first leg of this European Cup Winners’ Cup quarter-final tie.

These were days of Liverpool dominance both domestically and in Europe and, after a Graeme Hogg own goal and Juan Carlos Rojo’s late strike, Ron Atkinson’s side looked destined to fall short again.

After all, this was a Barca side boasting one of the most exciting players in the world in Diego Maradona but the great Argentine was to be completely overshadowed at Old Trafford.

Even the majesty of Diego Maradona couldn’t prevent Barcelona losing to United in 1984

Barcelona had established what seemed a commanding two-goal advantage in the Nou Camp

Barcelona had established what seemed a commanding two-goal advantage in the Nou Camp

The great Argentine was overshadowed by United skipper Bryan Robson at Old Trafford

The great Argentine was overshadowed by United skipper Bryan Robson at Old Trafford

Robson slams home the second of his two goals as United overcame the deficit with 3-0 win

Robson slams home the second of his two goals as United overcame the deficit with 3-0 win

Head to head 

Matches played: 11

United wins: 3

Draws: 4

Barcelona wins: 4

United goals: 15

Barcelona goals: 17 

United fans would become well accustomed to spectacular fightbacks when Alex Ferguson took over, but this remains one of their finest.

Captain Bryan Robson inspired their comeback with a diving header before half-time and a powerful close-range finish just after the break.

Frank Stapleton then fired home what proved to be the decisive goal three minutes later and Barca had no answer.

1991: Hughes comes back to bite Barca in final

Barcelona were masters of the now defunct European Cup Winners’ Cup, claiming it four times including in 1979, 1982 and 1989.

But in 1991, they were second-best to United as the English clubs marked their return to continental competition following the five-year ban after the Heysel tragedy.

Cheered on by tens of thousands of fans in Rotterdam, Ferguson claimed his second piece of silverware with the club thanks to two goals by Mark Hughes.

Mark Hughes scored twice against his former club as United beat Barcelona in the final of the 1991 European Cup Winners' Cup in Rotterdam

Mark Hughes scored twice against his former club as United beat Barcelona in the final of the 1991 European Cup Winners’ Cup in Rotterdam

United winger Lee Sharpe sprints past Barcelona's Nando during the final at the De Kuip

United winger Lee Sharpe sprints past Barcelona’s Nando during the final at the De Kuip

It was United's first triumph in European competition since their 1968 European Cup win

It was United’s first triumph in European competition since their 1968 European Cup win

Sparky had spent a season at the Nou Camp but disappointed in tandem with Gary Lineker and returned to Old Trafford, where he excelled once again.

This was a sweet moment as United claimed their second European trophy following the 1968 European Cup win.

1994: Ferguson’s United taught European lesson

Having started to assert their dominance in the Premier League, Ferguson’s United were keen to make their mark in Europe as well.

But two group stage encounters with a Barcelona team boasting the likes of Romario and Hristo Stoichkov demonstrated just how far they had to travel in 1994-95.

At Old Trafford, Lee Sharpe’s goal 10 minutes from time secured a creditable draw with Hughes again scoring against his old club. In betwee, Romario and Jose Bakero had scored for the Catalans.

Romario shoots for Barcelona in their 1994 visit to Old Trafford as Gary Pallister watches on

Romario shoots for Barcelona in their 1994 visit to Old Trafford as Gary Pallister watches on

The Brazilian star scores Barcelona's second goal in their 4-0 rout of United in the Nou Camp

The Brazilian star scores Barcelona’s second goal in their 4-0 rout of United in the Nou Camp

Mark Hughes is clattered by Ronald Koeman on a painful night all round for United in Spain

Mark Hughes is clattered by Ronald Koeman on a painful night all round for United in Spain

But in the Nou Camp, in front of an enormous crowd of 114,273, it was a completely different story.

United were hindered by a rule stating only three foreign players could be in their team, meaning Gary Walsh deputised for Peter Schmeichel, while star striker Eric Cantona was suspended anyway.

Stoichkov scored twice, with Romario and Albert Ferrer also on target in one of the heaviest defeats United have suffered in Europe.

It led to them crashing out after the group stage behind Barca and surprise group winners IFK Gothenburg.

1998: Six-goal thrillers en route to Treble dream

United had come some way in Europe by the 1998-99 season but were handed a fiendish Champions League group containing Barcelona, Bayern Munich and designated whipping boys Brondby.

The two meetings between United and Barca were terrific, free-flowing affairs between two sides totally committed to attack. Both ended with six goals evenly shared.

At Old Trafford, United steamed into a two-goal lead thanks to Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, only for Sonny Anderson and Giovanni to peg them back.

A sublime David Beckham free-kick restored United’s lead just after the hour, but Luis Enrique scored a penalty to ensure honours even.

David Beckham celebrates his stunning free-kick as United and Barca drew 3-3 back in 1998

David Beckham celebrates his stunning free-kick as United and Barca drew 3-3 back in 1998

Luis Enrique (right) celebrates with Giovanni after ensuring Barca left Manchester with a point

Luis Enrique (right) celebrates with Giovanni after ensuring Barca left Manchester with a point 

Dwight Yorke scored twice in the Nou Camp as United and Barca drew 3-3 in the return game

Dwight Yorke scored twice in the Nou Camp as United and Barca drew 3-3 in the return game

In Barcelona, United trailed inside the first minute through Anderson but fought back with some breath-taking football.

Dwight Yorke equalised before Andy Cole had United in front. Rivaldo quickly made it 2-2 but Yorke then scored again.

But once again United couldn’t hang on, with Rivaldo earning Barcelona a point that, in the end, wasn’t enough to take them through.

Of course, United would return to the Nou Camp at the climax of their historic season and stoppage time goals by Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer completed their memorable Treble win.

2008: Scholes screamer takes United into the final

Despite being pretty much ever-presents in the Champions League, the fates kept them apart until the semi-finals of the 2007-08 season.

In what proved to be a tense 180 minutes, United side came away from the Nou Camp with a goaless draw in the first leg.

But they were left kicking themselves after Cristiano Ronaldo horrendously skied an early penalty.

Cristiano Ronaldo gets his penalty badly wrong in the opening minutes in the Nou Camp

Cristiano Ronaldo gets his penalty badly wrong in the opening minutes in the Nou Camp 

A long-range stunner by Paul Scholes carried United in the 2008 Champions League final

A long-range stunner by Paul Scholes carried United in the 2008 Champions League final

Scholes helps to keep Lionel Messi in check at Old Trafford as United overcame Barcelona

Scholes helps to keep Lionel Messi in check at Old Trafford as United overcame Barcelona

At Old Trafford, it would take something truly special to split the teams and Paul Scholes duly obliged.

His shot from distance seemed speculative but had enough swerve on it to rip into the top corner and take United through.

They would beat Chelsea on penalties in the Moscow final to claim European football’s biggest prize for the third time.

2009: Messi magic proves too much for United in final

A year-and-a-bit later and the two sides would meet once again – this time in the Champions League final in Rome.

United may have been the defending champions but Barca under Pep Guardiola were setting ever-higher standards with their football.

Barcelona seized the early initiative thanks to Samuel Eto’o’s early goal and settled the contest when Messi leaped above the United defence to head home their second.

It was Barca’s third Champions League success and the second time they’d beaten an English club in the final that decade, having overcome Arsenal in 2006.

It was Barcelona's turn to get the better of United in the 2009 Champions League final in Rome

It was Barcelona’s turn to get the better of United in the 2009 Champions League final in Rome

Samuel Eto'o scored their first before Lionel Messi jumped highest to head home their second

Samuel Eto’o scored their first before Lionel Messi jumped highest to head home their second

Pep Guardiola is thrown into the air by his Barcelona players following their 2009 final win

Pep Guardiola is thrown into the air by his Barcelona players following their 2009 final win

It meant dejection for Sir Alex Ferguson and his team 12 months after their success in Europe

It meant dejection for Sir Alex Ferguson and his team 12 months after their success in Europe

2011: Barca at the peak of their powers in Wembley win

These two would meet in another Champions League final two years later, this time at Wembley.

In the meantime, Guardiola’s side had gone from strength to strength and entered the match as heavy favourites.

It went to form, with Barca dominant for the vast majority of the contest, recording 12 shots on target to United’s one as they bossed the tactical battle.

Pedro scored on 27 minutes, only for Wayne Rooney to fire United level shortly afterwards.

Guardiola's irresistible Barcelona team came out on top in the 2011 Champions League final

Guardiola’s irresistible Barcelona team came out on top in the 2011 Champions League final

Andres Iniesta gets the better of Michael Carrick during a one-sided Wembley encounter

Andres Iniesta gets the better of Michael Carrick during a one-sided Wembley encounter

Wayne Rooney briefly had United back on level terms but they were second-best at Wembley

Wayne Rooney briefly had United back on level terms but they were second-best at Wembley

Lionel Messi fires home Barcelona's second goal as they got the better of United again

Lionel Messi fires home Barcelona’s second goal as they got the better of United again

It proved a brief respite for United and second-half strikes by Messi and David Villa earned a deserved win.

There were emotional scenes in the Royal Box when Eric Abidal, two months after surgery to remove a liver tumour, lifted the trophy for the fourth time in club history.

 

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