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Barcelona vs Manchester United: five most memorable meetings

To date, Manchester United and Barcelona have met 13 times, three of which have come in major European finals.

Their most-recent clashes came in the 2019 Champions League quarter-finals, with Barça cruising through 4-0 on aggregate; Lionel Messi bagging a brace at Camp Nou.

On Thursday, the two will go head-to-head in Catalonia in the first leg of their Europa League first knockout round tie, with the return fixture at Old Trafford a week later.

The fact they’re meeting at such an early stage of UEFA’s second-tier competition emphasises just how far both have fallen.

To date, these two juggernauts, who’ve won 28 continental and intercontinental titles between them, have served up some classic encounters, with this article looking back at the top five most memorable of these matches.

Barcelona vs Manchester United: Head to head record

Barcelona wins: 6. Manchester United wins: 3. Draws. 4.

Barcelona vs Manchester United: Competitive meetings

2011 Champions League Final: Barcelona 3-1 Manchester United

2009 Champions League Final: Barcelona 2-0 Manchester United

2008 Champions League semi-finals: Manchester United 1-0 Barcelona (on aggregate)

1998 Champions League group stages: Man United 3-3 Barça and Barça 3-3 Man United

1994 Champions League group stages: Man United 2-2 Barça and Barça 4-0 Man United

1991 Cup Winners’ Cup Final: Manchester United 2-1 Barcelona

1984 Cup Winners’ Cup quarter-finals: Manchester United 3-2 Barcelona (on aggregate)

2008: Manchester United 1-0 Barcelona

Manchester United have got their hands on three European Cups, the most-recent of which came in 2008.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s side beat Chelsea in the final on penalties in Moscow, with their toughest victory en route to Russia coming in the semi-finals.

Across 180 minutes, Man United and Barcelona only served up one goal, but what a goal it was.

14 minutes into the second leg, Paul Scholes picked up a loose ball in midfield, before lashing the ball beyond Víctor Valdés.

Scholes scored 153 times across a 20 year career at Manchester United with this, possibly, the greatest goal of his illustrious career.

1998: Manchester United 3-3 Barcelona

In the mid-90s, Manchester United struggled to make an impact in the Champions League.

On debut in 1993, they were dumped out in the second round by Galatasaray, the second leg famous for the ‘welcome to hell’ banner at the Ali Sami Yen Stadı.

The following season, Sir Alex Ferguson’s team were dumped out in the group stages by surprise-package IFK Göteborg and Barcelona.

This featured a 4-0 drubbing at Camp Nou, the Red Devils’ heaviest European defeat since 1964.

Fast forward four years, an they’re drawn alongside Barça again, only this time Bayern Munich and Brøndby complete the quartet, with just the group winners guaranteed to advance.

Both meetings that season produced thrilling 3-3 draws, with David Beckham bagging a trademark free-kick at Old Trafford.

Man United snuck through in second place, behind Bayern before, ironically, those two met again at Barça’s stadium in the final on 26 May 1999; anyone remember what happened in that one?

1991: Manchester United 2-1 Barcelona

Before group stages, the Champions League glitz or glamour, there was the Cup Winners’ Cup.

In the 1991 final, the FA Cup winners took on the Copa del Rey champions in Rotterdam, after both had come through four rounds.

That night, striker Mark Hughes, facing his former club, scored twice, one of which was from an incredibly acute angle, after he’d rounded goalkeeper Carles Busquets.

Ronald Koeman did get the Blaugrana back into it, but Man United held on, claiming their first continental silverware since the European Cup 31 years earlier under Sir Matt Busby.

This kick-started the Red Devils’ dominance in the 1990s, going on to pick up seven of the next ten Premier League titles, and the Champions League eight years later.

2009: Barcelona 2-0 Manchester United

In 2009, Manchester United are on the cusp of becoming the first team in the Champions League era to retain the title.

The Red Devils have swatted aside Inter, Porto and Arsenal in the knockout phase, so were looking to complete a treble, having picked up the Premier League and League Cup already.

In their way are a Barcelona side who required a 93rd minute goal from Andrés Iniesta at Stamford Bridge to oust Chelsea.

In Pep Guardiola’s first season, they’d already won La Liga and the Copa del Rey, so are also seeking to complete the club’s first treble.

This truly was the world’s best two teams going head-to-head in the biggest game, with Barça proving to be too strong in the end, prevailing 2-0.

Samuel Eto’o broke the deadlock after just ten minutes, before Lionel Messi completed the win at Stadio Olimpico with a rare header.

2011: Barcelona 3-1 Manchester United

Two years and one day later, Manchester United and Barcelona are meeting once again in a Champions League Final.

Barça swatted aside Real Madrid in a Clásico semi-final and, at this point, are widely regarded as one of best club teams of all-time.

At Wembley, Pedro breaks the deadlock early, only for Wayne Rooney to fire home an equaliser shortly after.

Nevertheless, a moment of Lionel Messi magic, followed by a cool finish from David Villa, saw Barça capture their fourth European Cup, 19 years after lifting their first at the same venue.

Manchester United haven’t been back in a Champions League Final since then, now needing to overcome Barcelona just to get into the Europa League round of 16.

How times have changed?


Picture of Ben Gray

Ben Gray

Arsenal fan – follow them over land and sea (and Leicester); sofa Celtic supporter; a bit of a football '"encyclopedia".

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