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Rivarly renewed: Man Utd & Barcelona's most memorable matches

4:08 PM GMT 07/11/2022
Lionel Messi Paul Scholes Rivaldo Roy Keane Barcelona Man Utd GFX
The two clubs are set to meet in continental competition for the first time since 2019 and history suggests there will be fireworks...

The inevitable happened following Manchester United's failure to finish top of Europa League Group E, with a heavyweight tie against Champions League dropouts Barcelona confirmed during Monday's knockout round play-off draw.

Two of the world's biggest clubs, who boast eight European Cup wins between them, will clash over two legs in February for a place in the last 16, with the winners already being touted as champions-elect.

Barca edge their head-to-record, having won six games to United's three, while four of their meetings have ended in draws, only one of which was a 0-0 stalemate.

Their upcoming meeting will be the first on a Europa League stage, which shows how far they have both fallen in recent years, but there will still be plenty of top talent on display and an intriguing touchline duel to keep an eye on between Erik ten Hag and Xavi.

The question is, will this United vs Barca tie be able to rival any of those from the past?

Below, GOAL provides a recap of their most memorable battles, from a classic at Old Trafford to a masterclass at Wembley from a certain Lionel Messi...

  • Bryan-Robson-Maradona-Man-Utd-Barca-1984

    Man Utd 3-0 Barcelona | Cup Winners' Cup | 1984

    The memory of United overturning a two-goal semi-final deficit against Barca in the second leg of their 1983-84 Cup Winners' Cup campaign ranks among the fondest for the club's die-hard supporters, and for good reason.

    United stormed to a 3-0 win as they completely overwhelmed the Blaugrana at Old Trafford, with Bryan Robson scoring twice and Frank Stapleton also getting in on the act.

    Argentina legend Diego Maradona was essentially reduced to a spectator as Ron Atkinson's side executed the perfect gameplan, with Robson rightly grabbing most of the plaudits after a career-defining display.

  • Ferguson-Robson-1991-Man-Utd-Cup-Winners-Cup

    Man Utd 2-1 Barcelona | Cup Winners’ Cup | 1991

    May 15, 1991 – the night Sir Alex Ferguson's technically inferior Manchester United side battled their way to a 2-1 victory over Barcelona's 'Dream Team' in Rotterdam to claim the Cup Winners' Cup.

    Then-Blaugrana boss Johan Cruyff famously argued the English outfit had "played the British game" to secure victory in his native Netherlands.

    But the Dutchman's bitter words only sweetened the success for Ferguson, who had secured a first European trophy for United in 23 years thanks to two goals from a former Barca player, Mark Hughes.

    Robson was the architect of both goals to cap another stellar all-round display as the underdogs held on for victory despite a late own goal from Les Sealey.

  • Rivaldo Roy Keane Barcelona Man Utd Champions League 1988-99

    Barcelona 3-3 Man Utd | Champions League | 1998

    United were involved in a number of titanic tussles during their run to the treble in 1998-99, but few were more dramatic than their second 3-3 draw against Barca in the Champions League group stage.

    The two teams somehow topped a thrilling first meeting at Old Trafford as they shared another six goals, with Barca crashing out of the competition despite the best efforts of a seemingly super-human Rivaldo.

    The Brazilian scored two equalisers, hit the bar from 30 yards and produced a superb near-assist for Giovanni late on in a performance for the ages, but United ultimately went through alongside Bayern and went on to lift the trophy with a famous final win over the Germans at Camp Nou.

  • Man-Utd-Barca-2008-UCL

    Man Utd 1-0 Barcelona | Champions League | 2008

    United also met Barca on their way to their second European Cup success under Ferguson, but this time it was defence that trumped attack as Messi & Co were kept quiet over two legs.

    After earning a 0-0 draw at Camp Nou, the Red Devils took an early lead at home thanks to an absolutely sensational 25-yard strike from Paul Scholes that flew past Victor Valdes and into the top right corner of the net.

    Barca dominated possession thereafter, but could find no way past a stubborn United rear-guard marshalled brilliantly by Rio Ferdinand and Wes Brown, who gave a career-best performance after deputising for the injured Nemanja Vidic.

  • Messi-Ferdinand-Man-Utd-Barca

    Barcelona 2-0 Man Utd | Champions League | 2009

    United started their second successive Champions League final like a team possessed, with Cristiano Ronaldo leading their charge as Barca were pinned back in their own half at the Stadio Olimpico.

    However, the momentum of the contest completely shifted in the 10th minute as Samuel Eto'o escaped Vidic before producing a toe-poked finish that somehow wriggled past Edwin van der Sar at his near post.

    Xavi and Andres Iniesta then took over in midfield, with hapless opponent Michael Carrick remarking afterwards that the Spanish pair seemed to be playing their "own private game".

    It was Xavi who provided the cross for Messi, who was also on top form, to score a rare headed goal that sealed Barca's victory 20 minutes from time and leave United wondering what might have been.

  • Messi-Barca-Man-Utd-UCL-final-2011

    Barcelona 3-1 Man Utd | Champions League | 2011

    If United's defeat in Rome could be blamed upon one game-changing moment, Barca erased all doubt over the gulf in quality between the teams when they met again at Wembley two years later.

    In one of the most one-sided finals of the modern era, Pep Guardiola's side gave United a footballing lesson from the first minute to the last | notwithstanding Wayne Rooney's fine 34th-minute equaliser that cancelled out Pedro's early opener.

    Messi was unplayable, the world's best footballer at the peak of his powers, and he got the goal he deserved shortly after the interval to put Barca back in front.

    On another night, Barca might have won by a far more embarrassing scoreline, such was their superiority, with David Villa eventually wrapping up the win in the 69th minute with a stunning curling effort.

    Even Ferguson was well and truly humbled by the defeat, as he described Guardiola's Barca as "the best team I have ever faced".

  • Messi-Coutinho-Barca-Man-Utd-UCL-2019

    Barcelona 3-0 Man Utd | Champions League | 2019

    Fast forward eight years, and Messi was the thorn in United's side once again, scoring a brace inside 20 minutes to put Barca 3-0 up on aggregate and all but end the 2018-19 quarter-final as a contest.

    The Argentine's first was a thing of beauty as he dispossessed Ashley Young and nutmegged Fred before gliding towards the penalty area and unleashing a perfectly placed shot that nestled into the bottom corner of David De Gea's net.

    The Spanish goalkeeper gifted Messi his second, allowing his tame shot to creep under his body, and Philippe Coutinho rubbed salt in his and United's wounds on the hour mark.

    The former Liverpool talisman curled a sublime shot past De Gea from 20 yards, which was arguably the highlight of his entire Barca career, to complete a miserable night for United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on his first return to Camp Nou since his 1999 Champions League final winner.