FC Barcelona are preparing for their next match against Manchester United, that they will play on Thursday night. While meeting them in the Europa League would be a rare occasion, the Cules, especially Xavi, have had some memorable meetings with the English side in the past.
Xavi made his debut with FC Barcelona as a player on August 18, 1998, in a Spanish Super Cup tie against Mallorca. His second appearance and Champions League debut with the Blaugranes came in the Champions League, in a match against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Van Gaal was managing Barcelona that season, and the club squad included some high-profile names like Kluivert and Pellegrino, who had recently signed with the club. Xavi was only 18 years old that that time and made an appearance as a substitute in that match.
Giggs and Scholes scored early for the Reds, but Barcelona were able to equalize shortly after with goals from Giovanni and Anderson. At the 60 minutes mark, David Beckham scored the third goal for the Red Devils. Van Gaal introduced Xavi in the match at that point, replacing him for one of the goal scorers, Giovanni. The game ultimately ended 3-3 as Luis Enrique scored a penalty to equalize the scores.
That was Xavi’s first game in a tournament in which he went on to make 151 appearances by the end of his career. Thus, he is among the players who have played in the competition the most, coming only behind Cristiano Ronaldo, Iker Casillas, and Lionel Messi.
From these 151 appearances, 6 have been against Manchester United. The return leg in Xavi’s debut season at Camp Nou also ended 3-3, but with Xavi making his appearance as a starter. His next match against the Red Devils came in 2008, in which Barcelona were defeated at Old Trafford after drawing the match in Camp Nou.
However, his most lasting memories against Manchester United would surely be the two triumphs he had against them in the Champions League finals in 2009 and 2011. He played a key part in getting the better of the Red Devils both in Rome and at Wembley.