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Lightning can strike twice for United at Nou Camp, vows Ole

 

Heroic moment: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer celebrates after scoring that famous winning goal for Manchester United during the Champions League final against Bayern Munich in the Nou Camp 20 years ago
Heroic moment: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer celebrates after scoring that famous winning goal for Manchester United during the Champions League final against Bayern Munich in the Nou Camp 20 years ago
Alexis Sanchez

By David Charlesworth

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer attempted to tone down the significance of the 1999 Champions League final but the Manchester United manager feels the fixture proved anything is possible in football.

Solskjaer claimed a special place in the hearts of United supporters 20 years ago when his last-gasp strike against Bayern Munich at the Nou Camp sealed an unforgettable Treble.

Now the club's manager, the Norwegian returned to the ground yesterday as his side bid to overturn a 1-0 deficit in the return leg of their Champions League quarter-final in Barcelona.

Yet Solskjaer refused to dwell too much on the past and is fully focused on the task at hand, urging his side to believe they can prevail against the Spanish champions tonight.

He said: "Of course it's a fantastic memory for me.

"It's the only time I've been on the pitch, but I don't really look back on that night too often.

"My job now is to make us play better than in the first game.

"I was a player back then. In football anything can happen at any time and we know that we can still be in this tie.

"It's about the quality though. We need to defend well but going forward we need to score.

"If we keep a clean sheet, we can still be in the tie in the 93rd minute."

Solskjaer thinks his players should be emboldened by their fightback against Paris St Germain in the last 16.

Following a 2-0 loss at Old Trafford, United responded in spectacular fashion with a 3-1 victory at the Parc des Princes to progress on away goals last month.

Solskjaer recognises the abilities of a Barcelona side that has won four European Cups since 2006 but remains in a bullish mood.

He said: "That memory from PSG will help the players, it will help us as a team.

"We know we can turn things around.

"Of course Barcelona here at the Nou Camp is a difficult prospect but the memory from that night will live with the players.

"It's not that long ago and we're one goal better off."

Alexis Sanchez was among United's 22-man travelling contingent and is in contention to make a return against his former club after six weeks on the sidelines because of a knee injury.

The Chilean, who scored 47 times in 141 appearances during three seasons with Barca between 2011 and 2014, has endured a largely miserable time at United as a haul of five goals in 41 games would suggest.

Solskjaer said: "For Alexis it's a big night and when he's on the pitch I'm sure he wants to prove a point.

"He wants to prove a point for us as well. He's been injured, he's not had a fantastic season so far and let's hope he can end the season great for us.

"We are in the business end of the season, we're playing games that Man United are used to playing.

"Let's hope Alexis can be happy with his performance when he is on the pitch."

Solskjaer reaffirmed his belief that Paul Pogba will remain at United beyond the end of the season after Spanish media questioned speculation linking the Frenchman with a summer move to Real Madrid.

Solskjaer added: "Paul's focus is on Man United and performing here.

"He has been fantastic since I've come here and I've no doubt that he will perform for Man United as he has done lately.

"I don't think they (the fans) should worry too much."

Meanwhile, Solskjaer and the Manchester United staff will assess the club's physical conditioning in the summer, as there is a concern that the season's approach has led to the loss of energy which has led to the drop in performance level over the past few weeks.

The Norwegian initially introduced a high-intensity game-plan that brought rousing displays and results in his first two months in the job, only for that to drastically drop off in the last few weeks. United have only won two of their last six games, with both victories coming in otherwise unconvincing performances against Watford and West Ham United.

Solskjaer and his staff feel the fitness levels of the squad have not been suited to how he wants to play, and there is dismay in how quickly the approach has resulted in fatigue and injuries.

There is therefore likely to be changes to the approach in the summer

Previous manager Jose Mourinho did regularly have complaints about injuries, and made significant changes of his own with the fitness approach, but Solskjaer does not feel the work done on the squad this season serves what he wants to do.

Barcelona

Man United

Champions League:

Nou Camp, Tonight, 8pm

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