Manchester United fans touched down in Barcelona on Tuesday dreaming of another miracle at Camp Nou.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer completed the club’s most famous comeback there in 1999 and hopes to see a repeat on the same turf, this time against Barca in the Champions League quarter-finals.
Solskjaer’s 93rd-minute winner 20 years ago lives on in United folklore as they came from 1-0 down to beat Bayern Munich 2-1 and clinch Europe’s premier prize.
Now in the dugout, Solskjaer returns with his side trailing 1-0 again and needing an unlikely turnaround if they are to reach the tournament’s last four.
“Of course it’s a fantastic memory for me. It’s the only time I’ve been on the pitch here,” Solskjaer said at a press conference on Monday.
“I dont mind if we score in the 93rd minute again (on Tuesday). If we get to injury-time, we are a fit team.”
Ernesto Valverde has said Lionel Messi is fit and ready to play in the second leg as Barca bid to make the semis for the first time in four years.
Messi was among 10 players rested for the goalless draw against Huesca on Saturday after a hefty challenge from United defender Chris Smalling last week left him with a swollen nose and cheek.
“He is fine,” said Valverde. “He has recovered perfectly from the blow he suffered. He was fine after a couple of days.
– ‘A little stunned’ –
“It is true that during the match he was a little stunned but he is in perfect condition and does not have any problems ahead of tomorrow’s game.”
Valverde said Ousmane Dembele could also feature after he played 67 minutes against Huesca, having recovered from a hamstring injury.
“I don’t know to what extent because he has been out for four weeks,” Valverde said. “But he is ready to play.”
Barcelona have lost only one home game in the Champions League in 10 years, but United will draw hope from their last 16 comeback against Paris Saint-Germain, when they overturned a 2-0 first-leg defeat to go through.
“That memory from PSG will help the players and us as a team, that we know we can turn things around,” Solskjaer said.
“Barcelona here at the Nou Camp is a difficult prospect but the memory will live with the players. It’s not long ago.”
Barca goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen is confident his team can avoid a repeat.
“The good thing is we play differently to PSG,” he said. “But United are dangerous and the result from the first leg is dangerous, it is a very small advantage.”
Barcelona’s recent history in this competition has been painful. United look to follow Juventus, Atletico Madrid and Roma in sending Barca out in the quarter-finals for a fourth year in a row.
“It has been hard,” said Ter Stegen. “We are another year older and we want to make sure it doesn’t happen again. We have to take those losses into account and use them to move forward.”
Valverde urged his players to seize the opportunity.
“I think we all take examples of things happening in the past and use them to spur us on,” he said. “That’s fine but I prefer to take charge of your own destiny. You won’t be given something that falls from the sky. We have to earn it.”
United’s greatest threat in recent weeks has tended to come on the counter-attack but Solskjaer insists they cannot afford to sit back.
“There are freak results against Barcelona when you have 10 or 15 percent possession and they don’t win but normally they do win,” Solskjaer said. “We need to stamp our authority on the game.”