Twenty years after being Man Utd’s Champions League Final match-winner in the Nou Camp, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs passion not romance against Barcelona in Tuesday night’s quarter-final decider.
Manchester United’s hopes of shocking Barcelona to make the Champions League semi-finals will be decided by them showing the right mentality not relying on Boys Of ’99 sentimentality.
United return to the Nou Camp on Tuesday 20 years on from Solskjaer, who wore No20, clinched an astonishing 2-1 European Cup Final win over Bayern Munich with the second of their two stoppage-time goals. They are also 1-0 down to hosts Barca after last week’s first leg in Manchester and long-odds underdogs to go through to a semi against either Porto or arch-rivals Liverpool. But they weren’t expected to even get this far, having lost 2-0 at Old Trafford to Paris Saint-Germain in the previous round only to go through thanks to a controversial late winner in the Parc des Princes return.
But Solskjaer knows it will take a lot more than emotion and talk about destiny to see United knock out the Spanish giants in their own backyard. He said: “We have to have that little bit extra to beat a team like Barcelona . We weren’t good enough against them in the first tie and we have to improve. You have to deal with the challenge. You’re playing at the Nou Camp against a fantastic team and we have to be ready. I believe you get what you deserve in sports, that you put your life and effort and determination in and get exactly what you deserve. But sometimes people say it has to be our time because of 20 years ago, that I used to play with number 20, that we are back at Camp Nou…. but we have to deserve it, we can’t just rely on fate.”
Solskjaer knows it will be an emotional night for him on a personal level as he strides out into the scene of his greatest triumph. But he is determined to put his personal feelings to one side and help his side focus on the challenge of getting the better of Lionel Messi and co.
He said: “There will be many emotions, because it’s a fantastic memory for me. The last time I was on the pitch in 1999 was the only time. I’ve been in the stands since and brought my son to a Clasico in 2016 – we were high up in the stands. I was also here 10 days ago [scouting Barca]. But I don’t look back on that night too often. I’m focused on this game and how we can produce a better performance. We need to play better. That’s my job now.”
Solskjaer knows it all boils down to focus, belief and concentration – because Barca will punish United the split second they switch off. He added: “It’s massive. Belief is massive, because everyone has got talent and certain ability to play. But we’ve seen ourselves against PSG, how to get back against a fantastic team. Historically, Barcelona have been the best in the last 10 years, so it requires a massive effort. The players have shown before that if we give our all and then have a little bit of a lapse in concentration, Barcelona will hit you. Belief is one thing – but concentration is another.”
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