Ahead of Barcelona’s first match at Old Trafford since 2008 on Wednesday night, Sergio Busquets has admitted that stepping out into the Theatre of Dreams will fulfil a dream of his own.
Manchester United host Barca in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final before the return at the Nou Camp next Tuesday, and for the 30-year-old Busquets, who has spent his entire career in La Liga, it will be a new experience.
“I’ve always wanted to play at Old Trafford,” Busquets told Uefa’s wesbite ahead of the game. “They’re a side whose philosophy differs from ours. Their game revolves a lot around the physical side of things and counterattacks.”
Busquets has played Manchester United before, of course. The midfielder was part of the Barca team which beat United 2-0 in the 2009 final in Rome, and again two years later, winning 3-1 at Wembley.
The first was Busquet’s first Champions League final, having established himself in the Barcelona senior side that season, but injuries to several key players meant supporters were not optimistic.
“The fact Andres Iniesta played at 60 per cent fitness, like he’s said before, hasn’t been considered enough. We kept asking Andres 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.
“[Lionel Messi headed the second] and he did it even with Rio Ferdinand next to him – who, I think, is twice as tall!”
Two years later Busquets was more established, and so too were Pep Guardiola’s Barca. His confidence was almost total.
“That particular final was the one we felt most confident about our chances of winning. Pep 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.”
Finally, a decade after first taking on United, Busquets will have the chance to play at Old Trafford as he continues to chase a fourth Champions League trophy to add to his collection.
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