Manchester United practice their shooting as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looks to find goal threat to upset Barcelona
Premier League side are a goal down to the La Liga leaders ahead of second leg of their Uefa Champions League quarter-final tie
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer spoke in measured yet assured tones on Monday evening in Barcelona ahead of his most difficult task yet as Manchester United manager on Tuesday.
United must come from a goal down in the second leg of their Uefa Champions League tie with the La Liga leaders and beat a side who have won 27 of their past 30 home games in the competition. The other three matches were drawn.
Now in a record twelfth consecutive quarter finals, the Catalans are clear favourites to reach the semi-finals for the first time since 2015, but boss Ernesto Valverde was right to point out that United have won three of their four away games in Europe this season.
Two of those games were at Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain and the one they lost in Valencia was when they were already through the group stage.
“That memory from Paris will help the players know we can turn things around,” said the United manager during his news conference. "Barcelona is a difficult prospect but the memory will live with the players.”
United must improve from the first leg when they did not manage a single shot on target as Luke Show's own goal proved to be the difference maker.
“We’ve been practising finishing,” said Solskjaer. “It’s about confidence and being focused. We carry a goal threat. We have to take a deep breath and take those chances.”
United also had too little of the possession to seriously damage Barcelona and Solskjaer acknowledged they cannot afford that to happen again.
“We didn’t stamp our authority on the game at home,” said the Norwegian. “We didn’t keep the ball or create chances. You have to do that against Barcelona. Normally they would win with 80 per cent.
"We have to perform better than 80-20. If we give players like (Luis) Suarez, (Philippe) Coutinho, (Lionel) Messi, or (Arturo) Vidal time on the ball, they can hurt you.”
Solskjaer said he will not be worried if United do not score early and is aware they may have to be patient if they are to proceed to the semi-finals for the first since 2011.
“We can be in the tie in the 93rd minute,” he said – referencing Marcus Rashford's stoppage-time penalty against PSG that put them through to the last eight.
“We are physically taller than them, we are bigger than them. We can defend well, we are a fit team and I don’t mind if it goes to the 93rd minute.”
United have scored only once at home in five European games, but they have proven to be better away from home.
“Maybe teams are more open against us,” he said of why he thought they had found goals easier to come by on their travels.
“We scored against PSG after two minutes. That’s a massive factor in a game of football. That changed the mentality because they started worrying. It would be the same for us tomorrow. If we get the first goal it would be so important.”
But Solskjaer is aware for all his talk of tactics and when would be ideal to score that it will be redundant if his players do not step up, particularly in attack.
They toiled last week at Old Trafford and Solskjaer knows someone will have to step up and make an impact.
“We need big performances from forward players,” said Solskjaer. “We have to defend well but we need that little bit of extra to score. We weren’t good enough at home. Whoever starts tomorrow has to provide something a little bit special.”
Solskjaer rested five players at the weekend in the unconvincing 2-1 success over West Ham United.
“Physically we’re ready,” he said. “We’re playing a fantastic team and I know my guys are going to run until the ground takes them.”
Nemanja Matic and former Barça player Alexis Sanchez are back from injury and ready to play.
“He’s not had a fantastic season so far,” said Solskjaer of Sanchez. “Let’s hope Alexis when he’s on the pitch can be happy and can feature in the business end of the season. Sanchez is unlikely to start in the place he called home for three years.
Solskjaer is counting on his team’s heart to help them through.
“If you put your life, determination and everything you have, you get what you deserve,” he said. “To go through we have to perform and we have to deserve it. Belief is massive in football.”
He, for one, isn’t lacking that belief at the ground where he scored his greatest goal, 20 years ago.
Updated: April 15, 2019 10:17 PM