Parker - Suarez not Messi is the key player in United's glamour tie against Barcelona
Paul Parker reflects on Manchester United's draw against Barcelona in the quarter-finals of the Champions League and explains why Luis Suarez - not Lionel Messi - could be the key to the tie...
Manchester United could not have had a much worse draw for the Champions League.
First they face Barcelona, with the likes of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, and, if they get through that, they potentially face Liverpool in the semi-final and Manchester City in the final. But, as they saying goes, you have to beat the best to be the best.
Sometimes the Champions League draw works well for you because you don't necessarily have to be the best team to win it. As prestigious as it is, it's still a cup competition.
United have had to work hard up until this point but are still ahead of where they should be. Prior to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer arriving, no-one expected them to beat PSG, because of Jose Mourinho’s tactics. But they got through with some good fortune.
You have to be concerned about how United’s defence will cope against the Barcelona attack – but that would be the same for any team! Luis Suarez is very clever and he might be the key. He doesn’t play as a traditional striker so the United centre-backs will have to really think hard about their positional sense because they haven’t got a player to mark up against them all the time.
Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof both prefer that – having someone to mark – but Barcelona don’t ever give you the opportunity to constantly be up against someone. They lay off and ask: 'are you coming with us, or are you going to stay deep?'
In many ways, Suarez could be more of a problem than Messi for United because he’ll pull away and turn so that he can face the goal and look for the pass in behind.
Barca's change of gear?
This game has such glamour about it. And they can take inspiration from Chelsea’s win under their interim boss at the time – Roberto Di Matteo. However, the Italian was simply filling a gap and the football that the Blues played was awful so it’s a different scenario as they were one of the worst sides to ever win the Champions League.
United can’t start resting people for the domestic games either as they need a top-four finish as well. None of the players will want to miss any game, that is for sure.
But fighting on two fronts can work both ways. United will have to be competitive in every game, but Barcelona have stumbled over the line in some matches in La Liga this season, and conceded early too so perhaps their mindset isn’t right. United are playing flat out in every match, whereas Barcelona are perhaps changing down the gears in their domestic matches a little, before having to switch up again in Europe.
If you look at Bayern over the years, they have been in a comfort zone in the Bundesliga and still not won the Champons League since 2013. Then there is PSG, who have all the wealth and glamour players but are not in a competitive division in France.
Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain)Getty Images
They simply do not have enough challenging games in their domestic league and, unless something changes, will always have this problem when it comes to winning the Champions League.
As for United, I’ve got to believe they can do it. Few gave them a chance against PSG in the second leg so they might need that fortune again, but they are two ties away from the Champions League final and that is something no-one expected a few months ago.