There are simply no easy ties in the Champions League quarter-finals, but that’s not to say that Manchester United would have had their preferences ahead of today’s draw.
It’s not even a question that Man Utd would have opted for Porto instead of their actual last-8 opponents, Barcelona, one of the favourites for overall glory. However, after stunning French hotshots PSG in the previous round, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men will refuse to be overawed by their next challenge as they attempt to reach their first semi-final since 2011.
Rivals Liverpool will be far more satisfied with the outcome of the draw, themselves plucking out Porto, while there’s a tasty all-English duel between Spurs and Man City, and Juventus face Real Madrid’s conquerors Ajax.
Attempting to overcome Barcelona over two legs is one hellish task, but while United have lost both of their last two matches against the Catalan club in the competition - Final defeats at Wembley in 2011 and 2009 - the last time the Red Devils faced the Spanish giants over two legs they progressed through to the Final, where they beat Chelsea on penalties.
In fact, Sir Alex Ferguson’s United prevented the likes of Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto’o, and Thierry Henry from scoring over the course of 180 minutes - virtually unheard of - with a stunner from Paul Scholes all that separated the teams.
Prior to that Fergie’s men did battle with Barcelona back in the group stages of 1998/99. The games were thrillers too. The first was a 3-3 humdinger at Old Trafford during which United led 2-0 and 3-2, while the Nou Camp clash produced another corker as the clubs once again played out a 3-3 draw.
In the same season Man Utd went on to lift the Champions League trophy for the first time - they did, of course, win the European Cup under Sir Matt Busby in 1968 - overcoming Inter Milan and Juventus in the knockout stages, then Bayern Munich in the showcase spectacle...in case you didn’t know already.
We may now be in a new era at United but the club can definitely draw optimism from the fact that the last two times they faced Barcelona prior to the Final, they went on to win the competition.
In the only other two-legged meeting in European competition, the Red Devils managed to turn a 2-0 defeat at the Nou Camp to a 3-0 win on home soil back in the 1983/84 European Cup Winners’ Cup quarter-finals. Seven years later they edged out Barcelona 2-1 in the final same competition.
Furthermore, Barcelona have come unstuck at the quarter-final stage in each of the last three seasons. Last year they blew a 4-1 first-leg lead against Roma, in 2016/17 they were swatted aside by Juventus, and in the campaign before that they lost out to Spanish rivals Atletico Madrid.
Oh yeah one last thing, it was Solskjaer who won the Champions League for Man Utd in 1998/99. Location? The Nou Camp.
He has some happy memories at the Nou Camp to be fair 🙌