Ole Gunnar Solskjær has said Manchester United have no fear of facing Barcelona after drawing them in the Champions League quarter-finals.
United host the five-times European champions on 10 April before the return the following week, with the winners facing a semi-final against Liverpool or Porto. The draw also threw up an all-Premier League tie involving Manchester City and Tottenham, whose next opponents will be Ajax or Juventus.
Solskjær said United were not scared to face anyone, having eliminated Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16 when arriving at Parc des Princes 2-0 down. A stoppage-time Marcus Rashford goal from a penalty awarded by VAR clinched the comeback.
“We’ve shown against PSG that on any given day we can beat a top team,” Solskjær said. “Then again there’s so many variables and these games will be decided by margins. And of course with [our] VAR [decision], even though for me it’s a penalty, you can still be unlucky and not get it in the last minute. Then we’d be out and no one would really remember the PSG performance. So yes, we can go all the way but you’ve got to be lucky and good along the way. The confidence in the players, it’s sky high. And the mood is good, the training attitude is good, so hopefully we can keep that run going.”
For the second leg the Norwegian returns to the venue where his last-gasp winner against Bayern Munich clinched the 1999 Champions League for United.
“I’ve had so many texts from friends saying this year is going to be the year that we’ll get through because of my [shirt] number, 20, and it being 20 years ago,” he said. “We’re off to the Nou Camp again – it was the biggest night I’ve had in football. Of course, for all of us in that team, it was an unbelievable night. It’s a great stadium.”
Solskjær believes it is of benefit to be competing in the Champions League and FA Cup while also targeting a top-four finish. United travel to Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday night for a Cup quarter-final.
Solskjær’s former United teammate Gary Neville stated recently he thought it could help Liverpool’s title challenge to be out of the Champions League, which their manager, Jürgen Klopp, bridled at.
“[It’s about] momentum – the more games you win, the more confidence you breed, the more hunger there is in the player,” Solskjær said. “Every single game that you win puts another layer on that, on the way to becoming the team that we want to be. So I don’t agree with Gary Neville when he says that teams should go out of this and this to focus on that.”
The meetings between Tottenham and City mean the clubs are due to play each another three times in 12 days, a sequence completed by a Premier League fixture at the Etihad Stadium. Pep Guardiola offered a dry response when asked whether his tenure at City would be a failure if he failed to guide the club to a first European Cup.
“I was judged in Munich in that way so I will be judged here as well,” the former Bayern manager said. “My period in Munich was not good for most people because we didn’t get one final. We got semi-finals but we didn’t get a final and we were judged. So I’m a lucky guy – my standards are high. I have to reach it.”
Liverpool against Porto is a rerun of last season’s last-16 meeting, which Klopp’s team won 5-0 on aggregate. “I could not be further away from thinking it’s the best draw because it isn’t,” Klopp said.