"Sometimes Barcelona leave you space," says Romelu Lukaku, still optimistic about Manchester United's chances.
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Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku felt his side underperformed in losing 1-0 to Barcelona in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarter-final. United, admittedly, got the better of Paris in the round of 16 after a lacklustre home performance, but the Belgian was well aware that repeating the feat at Camp Nou would be even harder.
"Barça are not PSG, they have more experience," explained the 25-year-old, after a match in which United failed to register a single shot on target. "We have to be confident and go to the Camp Nou with passion and generate more chances." Speaking to UEFA.com ahead of Tuesday's decider, the Belgian forward struck the same note of defiance.
On facing Barcelona ...
Barça are on another level. Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus and Bayern München are the four best clubs in Europe for me. We want to once again be the English side that belongs in that bracket. We need to make as few mistakes as possible, but also produce some good football because sometimes Barcelona leave you some space to play in.
It will depend on the type of game and the coach's game plan, as well as the way they play. They have their own system which doesn't change and doesn't adapt [to the opposition]. We must be very smart about the moments we can go forward and the moments we can't. [The last-16 win against Paris] gives us some confidence, of course, but it's Barcelona. And if there is one team that can make the difference against any team, it's them.
On his difficult childhood ...
My father was a former professional [footballer], but after the end of his career it wasn't easy. We ended up in quite a deep hole. We were in dire straits; we had to move from place to place – it all happened within a ten-year period of my life. We really were penniless. We didn't know what we would eat the next day. My mother and I would go to Anderlecht market, and if a vegetable fell on the floor, my mother would pick it up and put it in her basket.
I had to become very mature at a very young age, and knew what I wanted to do, which was to play football as I knew it was the only way for me to be able to provide for my family. My brother [Lazio left-back Jordan Lukaku] and I did our best and it's been going very well.
On Ole Gunnar Solskjær ...
He always wants the best. When you have a top ex-international striker as coach, he gives you challenges in training, when working on finishing or on your positioning. He is fully focused and very demanding during every session and that's what I love. We're here to win, we're not here to produce some attractive football and lose.
On making his UEFA Champions League debut aged 24 ...
It was about time. I told myself: 'At last! At last!' I think I had already scored 150 career goals, but none of them had come in the Champions League. It's the kind of competition that so many football players want to take part in, so to score on my Champions League debut [against Basel on 12 September 2017] was unforgettable.
My mother was there, which made it even more special. When I heard the Champions League anthem, I didn't know how to react. I didn't know if I had to be serious or not. I started to laugh because I was saying: 'At last! I'm finally playing in the Champions League.' I was very happy to be taking part in such a competition. It's good to take part, but winning it is something else.