Manchester United was pooled against a ‘Messi-less’ FC Barcelona, aka the Catalans, in a mouthwatering Round of 16 Europa League clash.
This particular pooling, billed by various football analysts as this edition’s ‘UEFA Championships League final’, is going to take football lovers back to the annals of history when football nights were full of great footballing encounters.
The two sides are going to meet for the first time since 2011 when Barcelona was under the current Manchester City manager, Pep Guardiola. On the other side, United were under the tutelage of their legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson. In that edition, FC Barcelona (aka the Catalans) gave United a hiding by hitting 3 past Edwin Van Dar Sar, then United’s custodian. Goals from Pedro, Leonel Messi and David Villa confirmed a second Champions League trophy for Pep Guardiola. Wayne Rooney pulled one past Victor Valdes, who would later become United’s goalkeeper.
The seeding which happened yesterday is coming at a time when both European soccer powerhouses are not sitting pretty well according to their pedigree. While United are currently at position 5 in the league table after 13 games, Barca are at the poll position in their Spanish League.
Reacting to the pooling against his former opponents (as a player), FC Barcelona manager Xavi Hernandez was a bit reserved in his opinion.
“We will have to compete, going to Manchester against a really top rival and a historic side which has grown a lot with the arrival of (Erik) Ten Hag.
“[They have] great individual players and it is the toughest rival once again in the Europa League.
“We will have time to analyse it, they are a strong team in both defence and attack, not just for Cristiano Ronaldo, but other players [too]. Manchester United are a historic club and they also need to win. Two big teams and it’s going to be a massive task.”
Xavi played against Cristiano Ronaldo in three meetings before Ronaldo switched camps to Real Madrid – another FC Barcelona’s perennial rivals. In all the meetings, FC Barcelona beat United twice to lift the trophy while United beat FC Barcelona just once, to proceed and become the eventual winners of the 2008 edition.