On Tuesday evening there is a mountain for Manchester United in Catalonia, but it is nothing as stylish as the obstacle of 25 years ago when they faced Johan Cruyff & stellar team: Romario, Guardiola, Stoichkov and Koeman.
If that wasn't daunting enough, they had to deal with their talisman suspended – and they had to stick to the rule, which meant that you could only play three foreign players.
Goalkeeper Gary Walsh's main concern on the eve of the game was the hope that Sir Alex Ferguson had not seen him during training on the Nou Camp field.
Gary Walsh (front right) dragged off the field after having received four goals in Barcelona in 1994
& # 39; For some reason (Simply Red frontman) Mick Hucknall had participated in the shooting practice & # 39 ;, Walsh tells Sportsmail. & # 39; He has placed one with me. The shot went right through me. I was praying that Alex had not seen it. & # 39;
He apparently did not, given that at 9:30 am the following morning, Walsh was knocked on the door of his hotel room and opened it to the manager, who told him he would play.
& # 39; To this day, I have no idea why he played me instead of Peter Schmeichel & # 39 ;, says Walsh. & # 39; Maybe he wanted more outdoor areas with the threefold rule that limits him. & # 39;
Ferguson confirms the same in his first autobiography, Managing My Life. He was forced to choose three from Schmeichel, Andrei Kanchelskis, Roy Keane and Denis Irwin, with Eric Cantona suspended.
And although he protected Walsh from fear of calling late – & # 39; I slept so well the night before the game, but it was too late to get my family there, & # 39; Walsh recalls – the 24-year-old was immediately on the psychological challenge.
While walking through the tunnel for the group stage, he saw some Barcelonaists in the small chapel of the club. Then came the wall of noise.
& # 39; I think there were 115,000 in the place and I remember being struck by how high the stands were & # 39 ;, he says. & # 39; They seemed to rise to heaven. & # 39;
Ryan Giggs (left) watched as Mick Hucknell (center) participated in the Manchester United training
This was a United party that finally got acquainted with winning titles, would claim the Champions League within five years and could have won the home game of that season against the Catalans, which they took 2-2.
& # 39; We felt that we were very much at their level & # 39 ;, Mark Hughes, who scored in the band Old Trafford, tells Sportsmail. & # 39; I remember jumping for my goal and coming from the side or back of my head. & # 39;
Hughes believes that the rule of three foreigners – which applied to Irish players but not to Welsh – was very important at the Nou Camp, where he appeared as a Barcelona player seven years earlier.
& # 39; Romario and Hristo Stoichkov, those were the two & # 39 ;, he says. & # 39; From the start we found it difficult to deal with.
& # 39; But we were paralyzed by selection. That was always a frustration for us. & # 39;
The first goal, a clean Stoichkov attack, started in just nine minutes. & # 39; They moved so quickly & # 39 ;, Walsh says. & # 39; You would not believe in the speed with which they attacked us and the way they moved the ball between them. I always felt it was a lesson for us. It influenced United & # 39; s approach to Europe in the games that followed. & # 39;
Romario scored a second on the stroke of half-time.
Romario, considering the retention of Roy Keane, scored a goal when United was thrashed at the Nou Camp
Ferguson had said when his team in Aberdeen was destroyed 4-0 by Liverpool in the competition between 1980 and 1981 that his parties would always show more patience in European football, less gung-ho, waiting for the chance. That seems to explain why he glowed halfway with Paul Ince, the designated defensive midfielder of United.
& # 39; We were inundated because Barcelona was much cuter than us, & # 39; Ferguson reflected years later. & # 39; They were more patient in applying their tactics and my anger in the dressing room halfway was a reaction to the naivety we had shown in midfield. & # 39;
Ferguson had a very complex midfield game plan in which he explained Nicky Butt to press the area for the rear quadrangle of Barcelona where Pep Guardiola liked to operate. Hughes came in to stifle Ronald Koeman's influence and Ince controlled the forward runs of José Maria Bakero or Guillermo Amor, causing Roy Keane to deal with the others.
But Ince did not seem to be satisfied as the anchorman in midfield.
& # 39; No one was better at work, & # 39; Ferguson thought. & # 39; But it was clear to me that he now saw himself as an attacking midfield player, which was a hopeless misunderstanding of his strengths.
& # 39; His vague interpretation of his position made a remarkable contribution to our nightmare. & # 39;
Pep Guardiola (center), who turned away from Nicky Butt (left), stood in midfield for Barcelona
Reserve keeper Kevin Pilkington remembers the clash between manager and player in the locker room was & # 39; as close to a fistfight as you can get without it starting. The boss tore into Incey – went crazy, & he says. & # 39; You f ***** g bottler, Incey! You can't take the stage. & # 39;
Needless to say, Ince challenged that thought. Neither Walsh nor Hughes remembers the altercation.
& # 39; But we certainly would not be philosophical, Stoichkov or not, & # 39; says Hughes.
& # 39; We were used to winning. We hadn't won the championship all these years. & # 39;
Walsh had little to do in the second half. & # 39; The goals aside, I don't think I have a chance to make, & # 39; he says. & # 39; They just kept themselves in possession and then lashed us out. & # 39;
Stoichkov again scored seven minutes after the restart and Albert Ferrer finished the match two minutes after time. The deficit was crucial, which meant that Barcelona instead of United from the group came out on goal difference.
No 8 Hristo Stoichkov scored two goals when Barcelona hit USA in 1994
Walsh, now the goalkeeper coach of West Bromwich Albion, eventually had to board a bus with fans from the United States from the airport to his car.
Most didn't recognize him, but he pulled his hat over his eyes.
Like Ferguson, Keane has always found this a major stopping point in the European education of United.
& # 39; Our way of playing was tailored to the English game, with the pace from start to finish being manic, & # 39; Keane said a few years later.
& # 39; The subtlety and tactical fluency that we often encountered in Europe was lacking. The more insidious problem was bad habits, acquired week-in, week-out, when we started dominating domestic competitions. & # 39;
Walsh remembers that in the following months he played other teams and they played the Queen song & # 39; Barcelona & # 39; heard playing on the tannoy.
& # 39; It has encouraged us more than it made us angry & # 39 ;, he says. & # 39; We knew we could improve and we did. & # 39;