The two giants of European football haven’t met in a competitive game since the 2011 final.
While majority of the footballing world have already written off the Red Devils even before the ball has been kicked, here are five subtle reminders why Barcelona cannot take Manchester United lightly or they will risk getting beat.
5. Natural boost after THAT win against PSG
The Red Devils pulled off a near impossible result in the Champions League round-of-16 when they came back from 2 goals down at Old Trafford in the first leg to claim the win in the dying stages of the second leg at the Parc des Princes in the second leg.
In the 18 games since Solskjaer’s arrival, United have won 14, drawn two and lost just two games.
In the run-in to their season up till now, the Red Devils have faced plenty of stiff challenges off late, only losing to Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain, whilst beating Chelsea and Tottenham away, as well as drawing with Liverpool.
4. Aerial advantage over Barcelona
One of the major areas where Manchester United could trump Barcelona is at set-pieces. As seen since Solskjaer’s arrival, set-pieces have come back in trend at Old Trafford and with the range of passing available at their disposal in the form of Pogba, Herrera, Fred, Dalot and Mata, United look extremely dangerous at set-pieces.
Physically speaking, Chris Smalling and Nemanja Matic are both 1.94 metres tall, Scott McTominay comes in at 1.93m, Paul Pogba is 1.91m, Romelu Lukaku is 1.90m, David de Gea is at 1.89m, Victor Lindelof is 1.87m, along with Eric Bailly, while Marcus Rashford stands at 1.85m.
United have not used their squad’s height to advantage much this season though as they have managed just five goals through headers in the campaign up till now. But set-pieces is definitely one way United can give problems to Barcelona.
3. Paul Pogba’s form
Paul Pogba is by far the most improved player under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s management up till now. The Frenchman played 20 games as he scored five goals and provided four assists under Jose Mourinho this season but under Solskjaer, Pogba has managed eight goals and six assists in only 14 games up till now.
What Solskjaer has done is given Pogba the free role he thrives in while Ander Herrera and Nemanja Matic have taken over the defensive midfield mantle. If Pogba is in the mood, United will win the midfield battle that is already intriguing on the cards.
2. Counter-attacking abilities
One thing Solskjaer has reinvented at Manchester United since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson is ensuring that his Red Devils are fearless to experiment.
Under Mourinho, United were predictable and had a pattern to everything whereas under Solskjaer, they look like a decent blend of attack and hold-up play and most of all, the squad is fearless.
Against Barcelona, it is obvious that the Catalan side will adopt the same strategy of possession control domination leading to goals via Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, but the slightest of mistakes in their build-up is something that United will do everything to capitalise on.
As observed against Paris Saint-Germain, United took advantage of three errors against PSG to score three goals with just four shots on goal. Players like Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba play an instrumental role in this strategy brought in by Solskjaer and it is definitely something Barcelona need to be wary of.
1. David de Gea
Yes, off late he has looked dicey in his decision making, but make no mistake, David de Gea is one of the best goalkeepers in the world and on his day, nothing goes past him.
De Gea however, has a Lionel Messi in the best form of his life to stop when he takes the field in the Champions League next time out. The Spaniard, who has kept 100 clean sheets in his Premier League career up till now will need to deliver one hell of a performance over two legs to lead United to the semi-final of the Champions League this season.