Redemption might be too strong a word for it, but there is no doubting that the 1991 European Cup Winners’ Cup Final revolved around Mark Hughes and his unfinished business with Barcelona.
The United legend had been sold, albeit reluctantly, to the Catalan club in 1986 and then spent two increasingly frustrating years failing to make his mark at the Nou Camp.
He was then re-signed by the new United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson.
And on a wet and decidedly Mancunian night in Rotterdam three years later, Hughes made Barcelona pay.
The match was a milestone for English football. It was the first European trophy for United since 1968 in the first season back in Europe for English teams since the ban imposed on them following the 1985 Heysel stadium disaster.
United certainly did England proud on the night.
They outplayed the new Spanish champions for much of the match, aided by a stellar performance from captain Bryan Robson.
But it took United well into the second half to turn their superiority into a deserved lead.
The opening goal came on 68 minutes when Robson floated a free kick into the area. Barca’s stand-in keeper, Busquets, came for the cross but was beaten to the ball by United centre half Steve Bruce.
Bruce had been a major scoring threat throughout the tournament, notching four goals on the way to the final, and his header was going in before Hughes helped it on its way from a few inches out to give United the lead.
Hughes was officially given the goal, although the Welshman later said it should have been Bruce’s.
But there was no doubting who scored the second, and ultimately decisive, strike.
Robson, again, was at the heart of the matter as he found Hughes in space on the right of the Barca area. Hughes skipped past the advancing Busquets and drilled the ball home from the tightest of angles.
It was a classic Hughes goal – a difficult chance accepted with flawless technique and sweetly-controlled power – and it left Barcelona with just 16 minutes to conjure up an unlikely comeback.
Five minutes later it was game on as Ronald Koeman scored with a trademark free kick.
Finally shaken out of their listlessness, Barca attacked relentlessly and threatened to overturn 75 minutes of United dominance in a mad last ten minutes.
Barcelona’s cause was not helped when Hughes was brought down by Nando and the right back was sent off for a professional foul.
But still the Spaniards attacked. They had a goal disallowed for offside before a last minute mistake by Bruce left Michael Laudrup with a gilt-edged chance to take the game into extra time.
Bruce sold his keeper, Les Sealey, short with a back pass and Barca sub Pinilla rounded Sealey and sent a cross over to Laudrup. With the keeper out of the picture, Laudrup had to score. Instead, his shot was blocked on the line by United stalwart Clayton Blackmore.
The chance was lost, the game won and only the most one-eyed Barca fan could begrudge United their victory.
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