United wary of dangerous Barça

Manchester United FC may appear marginal favourites after the goalless semi-final first leg with FC Barcelona but both teams have cause for caution at Old Trafford.

Barcelona's Samuel Eto'o will hope to do what he could not in Spain and get past Rio Ferdinand at Old Trafford
Barcelona's Samuel Eto'o will hope to do what he could not in Spain and get past Rio Ferdinand at Old Trafford ©Getty Images

Manchester United FC may appear marginal favourites at the halfway stage of their UEFA Champions League semi-final against FC Barcelona but, after the first-leg goalless draw, both teams have cause for caution going into the deciding match at Old Trafford.

• Barcelona must do something that none of the eleven previous visitors to Old Trafford have managed in this competition and avoid defeat. That is a sizeable task against a side who have conceded just one goal in five home games this term and stand unbeaten in their last 14 UEFA Champions League fixtures in Manchester stretching back over the last three campaigns.

• That said, Frank Rijkaard's men do not need to win – a score draw would suffice to carry them through to the final in Moscow and it should be noted that only once in this season's competition have they failed to find the net on their travels.

• United manager Sir Alex Ferguson will need no reminder that on the last three occasions his charges returned from Europe after a goalless first leg, they proceeded to surrender the initiative at Old Trafford.

• Barcelona's great rivals Real Madrid CF won 3-2 at United after a stalemate in Spain in the 1999/00 quarter-finals, while at the same stage two seasons earlier an AS Monaco FC side including Thierry Henry denied the English team further progress after earning a 1-1 draw. United also exited on the away-goals rule after being held 2-2 by Russia's FK Rotor Volgograd in the first round of the 1995/96 UEFA Cup.

• The English team had won their three previous European ties following a 0-0 away draw, one of them under Sir Alex – a 2-0 aggregate win against Athinaikos FC in the 1991/92 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup first round. The earlier successes were against FK Sarajevo (1967/68 European Champion Clubs' Cup) and PSV Eindhoven (1984/85 UEFA Cup).

• The only previous time Barcelona played out a 0-0 home draw in the first leg of a European tie was against Liverpool FC in the 2000/01 UEFA Cup semi-final. The Spanish outfit lost the return 1-0.

• Score draws included, however, on four of the seven previous occasions Barcelona drew the first leg at home, they went on to win the tie in the away leg.

• For two-times winners United, victory would bring a third European Cup final appearance and would also ensure the first all-English final in the history of the competition.

• Barcelona, who achieved their second European Cup triumph under Rijkaard two years ago, are hoping to reach their sixth final.

• United's nine preceding semi-final appearances have brought just two victories and they will need no reminding of their last-four fate 12 months ago when they surrendered a 3-2 first-leg lead in a 3-0 loss at AC Milan.

• Barcelona have won four of the eight previous semi-finals they have contested – those successes coming in 1960/61, 1985/86, 1993/94 and 2005/06 – in addition to advancing to the 1991/92 final as winners of their last-eight group.

• The English champions began the campaign by winning Group F with a record of W5 D1 L0. They then defeated Olympique Lyonnais 2-1 on aggregate in the last 16 before a 3-0 overall success against AS Roma in the quarter-finals.

• Barcelona are also unbeaten in the UEFA Champions League this season. They overcame FC Schalke 04 to reach the last four, winning 1-0 in both legs. Frank Rijkaard's men had previously defeated Celtic FC in the first knockout round – 4-2 on aggregate – after topping Group E with a record of four victories and two draws.

• United have a strong home record against teams from Spain, with seven wins, seven draws and just two defeats from 16 matches played. They have registered four wins and five defeats in nine previous two-legged ties against Spanish opposition. 

• This is the Old Trafford club's third semi-final against Spanish opposition and on the two preceding occasions Real Madrid provided the opposition. United went down 5-3 on aggregate against Madrid in the 1956/57 European Cup, then gained revenge with a 4-3 triumph en route to winning the 1967/68 competition.

• Barcelona's fortunes in the UEFA Champions League have become closely intertwined with those of English sides in recent seasons. They exited the competition in 2004/05 and 2006/07 after losing to Chelsea FC and Liverpool respectively in the first knockout round. In the season in between, 2005/06, they defeated Chelsea in the first knockout round and then overcame Arsenal FC in the final.

• Indeed in their last 32 matches in the UEFA Champions League, Barcelona's only two defeats have come against Premier League opposition – Chelsea and Liverpool last term.

• Overall Barcelona have lost eleven and won just six of 23 visits to face English opposition.

• Their most recent triumph on English soil came in last season's first knockout round where they beat Liverpool 1-0 at Anfield through an Eidur Gudjohnsen goal. However, a 2-1 first-leg home defeat meant an away-goals loss.

• That defeat against Liverpool means Barcelona have won seven and lost eight of 15 two-legged contests against English opponents. Moreover, Barcelona have won only one of four previous semi-finals against English teams in UEFA club competition:
1974/75 European Cup, Leeds United AFC 2-3 (aggregate)
1975/76 UEFA Cup, Liverpool 1-2
1981/82 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, Tottenham Hotspur FC 2-1
2000/01 UEFA Cup, Liverpool 0-1

• Barcelona and United had met seven times prior to this semi-final, with both sides claiming two victories apiece.

• United have fond memories of the clubs' first encounter, in the 1983/84 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup quarter-finals, where they overturned a 2-0 first-leg deficit with a 3-0 home success courtesy of goals from Bryan Robson (2) and Frank Stapleton.

• The English outfit prevailed again in the 1991 final of the same competition in Rotterdam, winning 2-1 to give Sir Alex Ferguson his first European trophy as United manager. Mark Hughes was the hero with two second-half goals before Ronald Koeman's reply ensured a tense finish on a night where Brian McClair and Mike Phelan – both coaches at Old Trafford today – and Aitor 'Txiki' Beguiristain, Barcelona's technical director, all featured in the action.

• Barcelona handed United a football lesson when the teams first met in the UEFA Champions League in the 1994/95 group stage. After a 2-2 draw in Manchester – where Paul Scholes made his European debut as a 67th-minute substitute – the Spanish side won 4-0 at the Camp Nou through goals from Hristo Stoitchkov (2), Romário and Albert Ferrer. Ryan Giggs played for 79 minutes of the match before being replaced by Scholes.

• The teams played out two thrilling 3-3 draws in the 1998/99 group stage, which ended with United pipping Barcelona to second place behind Bayern by two points. There are no survivors from that Barcelona side but Giggs and Scholes scored the opening two goals of the September 1998 game at Old Trafford, while Wes Brown, Gary Neville and Scholes all figured in the return at the Camp Nou two months later. 

• United defender Gerard Piqué spent seven years in Barcelona's youth system before leaving to join United in 2004, and counted Lionel Messi among his contemporaries.

• Barcelona forward Henry spent eight years with United's Premier League rivals Arsenal (1999-2007) and scored nine goals in 18 appearances against the Old Trafford outfit. However, he found the net only once in six visits to Old Trafford – and that in a 6-1 defeat in February 2001.

• Sylvinho (Arsenal, 1999-2001) and Gudjohnsen (Chelsea, 2000-2006) also know all about United from their time in England.

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