“I’ve always wanted to play at Old Trafford,” Sergio Busquets told UEFA.com as he looked ahead to Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League quarter-final opener against Manchester United, though he knows the Red Devils well enough from two UEFA Champions League final meetings.
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“They’re a side whose philosophy differs from ours,” the 30-year-old midfielder said of the current Old Trafford crop. “Their game revolves a lot around the physical side of things and counterattacks.” Here he talks through his two high-profile encounters with Sir Alex Ferguson’s team.
2008/09: Barcelona 2-0 United, Stadio Olimpico, Rome
“It was my first Champions League final, my first year in Barça’s senior team. Everything was amazing! Yaya Touré couldn’t play the final, nor [Éric] Abidal and [Rafael] Márquez, and the fans thought: ‘Well, we’re going to lose this.’ The fact Andrés Iniesta played at 60% fitness, like he’s said before, hasn’t been considered enough. We kept asking Andrés how he felt and he said: ‘Well, I’m OK but I can’t shoot.’ And we thought: ‘Either he’s messing with us or this injury can’t be that bad.’ He couldn’t shoot or make long passes. However, he played with conviction. It was like a miracle.
“With several defenders out of action, with Andrés playing injured, I think it was more about our mental state. We were convinced we could do it. [Lionel Messi headed the second] and he did it even with Rio Ferdinand next to him – who, I think, is twice as tall! We scored the second and the game was over. I remember the final whistle, I remember us hugging each other, the celebrations. The piece of goal netting that Gerard [Piqué] cut. I kept a bit of it too, by the way.”
2010/11: Barcelona 3-1 United, Wembley, London
“We trained, I think it was, at Arsenal’s training ground and we prepared for the game really well. [Because we arrived in London a few days early] we were focused purely on the final. That particular final was the one we felt most confident about our chances of winning. [Josep Guardiola] told us that his preparations were all about us going out to win the game, and that we would be the better side, and that what happened out on the pitch was ultimately down to us.
“[Sir Alex Ferguson and some United players] commented on how amazing our performance was, that they’d never seen a team like us and that we were the better side. It’ll always be remembered as one of the finals in which, in terms of the play, one team was far superior to the opposition. I don’t think United were prepared for what we were going to throw at them. They had never come up against a team like us.”