‘It’s these games our fans and this club crave’: Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer relishing clash with Barcelona in Champions League
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is relishing a titanic Champions League quarter-final against Barcelona after the clubs were paired in Friday’s draw.
The tie takes Solskjaer back to the scene of his greatest triumph at the Nou Camp, where he scored the winner in the 1999 final against Bayern Munich. In the other quarter-finals, Manchester City meet Tottenham, Liverpool face unfancied Porto and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus take on Ajax.
Solskjaer is backing United to pull off another momentous result against Lionel Messi’s Barca, following the sensational comeback win over Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is excited about facing Barcelona but first up is an FA Cup tie with Wolves
Manchester United were handed a tough Champions League quarter-final draw against Barca
‘It’s these games our fans and this club crave. We’re looking forward to this one,’ he said. ‘We had the final against them in 2009 and 2011 and the semi-final in 2008 when Scholesy (Paul Scholes) scored.
‘We want these games against the biggest clubs. We’ve shown against PSG we can beat a top team. We can go all the way, but you’ve got to be lucky and good along the way. The confidence in the players, it’s sky high.’
Solskjaer, who wore No 20 on his back during his time as a United player, remembers his previous visits to Catalonia fondly.
He added: ‘It had to be [Barcelona]! I’ve had so many texts from friends saying this year is going to be the year that we’ll get through because of my number, 20, and it being 20 years ago. We’re off to the Nou Camp again!
‘It was the biggest night I’ve had in football. Of course, for all of us in that team, it was an unbelievable night. It’s a great stadium… and, of course, we met them in the group stages as well that year – 3-3 each both home and away. It’ll be a good game.’
United have been forced to reverse the tie — now playing the first leg at Old Trafford on Wednesday, April 10, and the second leg at the Nou Camp on Tuesday, April 16 — as their home game clashed with City hosting Tottenham. They may face bitter rivals Liverpool in the semi-final if both clubs progress, while the winner of City versus Spurs will meet Juventus or Ajax.
The United manager is hoping the pain of defeat at Arsenal last Sunday will help his players avoid an FA Cup exit at Wolves on Saturday night. The 2-0 defeat at the Emirates was Solskjaer’s first domestic loss in 16 games as caretaker boss.
The 46-year-old said: ‘Any game you lose is a big anti-climax. It’s the worst feeling you can have.
‘Maybe that’s the only good thing about the Arsenal defeat, to feel how much it hurt.
‘I don’t agree with Gary Neville when he says teams should go out of this competition to focus on that.
‘We’ve been on a good run now and if we get through to the semi-final of the FA Cup, I’ll have a nice few days back home.’
Solskjaer’s United must find a way to out-gun the likes of Luis Suarez (left) and Lionel Messi
Former striker Solskjaer scored his most famous goal at Barcelona’s Nou Cup in May 1999