Manchester United Legends returned to Old Trafford as they took on Barça Legends in a charitable fixture that saw United emerge victorious with an overall aggregate score of 5-3 after the 2nd leg finished in an action packed 2-2 draw.
The highly anticipated match, in aid of Manchester United Foundation, followed the first leg at Camp Nou in June, from which Manchester United took a 3-1 lead. The Reds opened the scoreboard again today as Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy was awarded a penalty in the 14th minute.
Danny Webber made it 2-0 for United in the 43rd minute as he chipped the ball over the Barça keeper, with goals from Luis Garcia and Gaizka Mendieta levelling the score for the Catalans in the second half.
Van Nistelrooy spoke of his joy at returning to the Theatre of Dreams: “It always a pleasure, it’s a great feeling especially to see the lads and the fans and come back here.”
Speaking about Manchester United Foundation he added: “It’s fantastic, you see with your own eyes what difference the Foundation make and for me it’s nothing to come here and play, and with the turnout it’s fantastic for the Foundation and the good work can continue.”
Other favourites stepping back out onto the hallowed turf today included Edwin van der Sar, Dwight Yorke and Ji-Sung Park, whilst Andrew Cole was enthusiastically welcomed back to the Old Trafford dugout as manager for the match. He stepped up to the role after Bryan Robson had to unfortunately pull out of the event due to injury.
The Spanish side managed by Albert ‘Chapi’ Ferrer and his team included Edgar Davids, Patrick Kluivert, Gaizka Mendieta and Éric Abidal.
Ahead of kick-off, Manchester United and FC Barcelona held a minute’s silence to commemorate the recent terror attacks in both cities. The players wore black armbands and had the names of their respective cities on the backs of their shirts. A message of support was also displayed on the LED boards around the pitch during the minute’s silence.
Former United shot stopper and fan favourite Edwin van der Sar said: “Barcelona played a really good game, they are a good team with fantastic players.”
He added: “When I was playing at United I went to some of their projects, it’s fantastic what the Foundation do, there is a still a big need for it so let’s hope we raised some good money for the projects.”
Barcelona legend Luis Garcia played at Old Trafford on numerous occasions during his time at Premier League side Liverpool and enjoyed his return: “I enjoyed it very much; for me it was always one of the best stadiums and the best atmosphere. Today was a great game for a good cause; to score was something special.”
British boyband The Vamps performed a selection of their greatest hits pre-match and there were a number of family activities and carnival-style entertainment outside the stadium. Fans enjoyed meeting their favourite movie characters, having their faces painted, and even had the chance to appear on the front cover of a life-size United Review.
Participants from Manchester United Foundation projects took part in an opening ceremony before kick-off, and the Foundation choir performed at half-time with award-winning West End star Kerry Ellis.
Legends are Back 2017 follows the success of the 2013 and 2015 clashes against Real Madrid and Bayern Munich respectively, and the campaign has now raised over £2.2 million for Manchester United Foundation’s work with young people across Greater Manchester.