“Sometimes people say it has to be our year because it was 20 years ago, I used to play with the No 20 and we’re back at the Nou Camp. But we have to deserve it. We can’t just rely on fate, no,” said Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Photo: Action Images via Reuters

This might be an opportune moment to remember that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s famous Champions League winner at the Nou Camp in 1999 isn’t actually his most precious goal for Manchester United.

Those came some years later, against Newcastle in 2006, when he scored twice in front of his young son Noah at Old Trafford after briefly recovering from career-threatening knee problems.

In the week that Tiger Woods staged another of sport’s great comebacks watched by his two children at Augusta, it’s easy to see what made those goals so special for Solskjaer.

“I was walking off the pitch, and there was my son Elijah with his fists clenched,” he told Sportsmail in 2011.

“He was six and he would remember daddy scoring at Old Trafford. That was one of the biggest things to drive me on, because he was only three when I got injured.

“My dad used to be a greco-roman wrestler and he was Norwegian champion six years on the bounce from 1966 to 1971. But I never saw him wrestle.

“I’ve only read the clippings. My motivation was that Noah wouldn’t just read about me, he would remember me.”

In the 20 years since he walked off the pitch with a Champions League winner’s medal hanging around his neck after that injury-time winner in the final against Bayern Munich, Solskjaer has never set foot on the Nou Camp’s hallowed turf.

He returned here with Elijah in 2016 to watch El Clasico against Real Madrid – “high up in the stands”, as he recalled last night – and with his assistant Mike Phelan 10 days ago to scout this evening’s opponents Barcelona.

Solskjaer and the Nou Camp have remained frozen in time; an outstretched leg to divert Teddy Sheringham’s flick-on from David Beckham’s corner past Oliver Kahn. Bedlam on the United bench. Peter Schmeichel’s cartwheel. Football, bloody hell.

Solskjaer reappeared here last night with his hair significantly greyer, but otherwise largely unchanged at the age of 46.

Now manager of Manchester United, he must try to conjure up another miracle.

He was reminded of the story of him phoning a friend at home in Norway in ’99 to tell him to tune into the final because he knew something special was going to happen.

So, does he still believe in fate?

“Sometimes people say it has to be our year because it was 20 years ago, I used to play with the No 20 and we’re back at the Nou Camp,” he replied.

“But we have to deserve it. We can’t just rely on fate, no.”

Still, being back here stirs many emotions.

“It’s a fantastic memory for me,” he added.

“The last time I was on the pitch was the only time. I’ve been in the stands, brought my son to a Clasico in 2016, high up in the stands, and I was here 10 days ago.

“But I don’t look back on that night too often. I’m focused on tomorrow and a better performance. We need to play better – that’s my job now.”

What a job it is as well. United are a goal down to a Barcelona team that haven’t lost at home in Europe for six years.

Indeed, Liverpool were the only Premier League club to win at the Nou Camp in 23 attempts going back to February 2007, and the night of Craig Bellamy’s infamous golf swing celebration.

Against such esteemed opponents, United will need to surpass their win over Paris Saint-Germain in the last round when they overturned a two-goal deficit from the first leg.

“Of course, that memory from PSG will help the players and us as a team,” said Solskjaer. “We know we can turn things around.

“Barca at the Nou Camp is a different prospect, but that night will live with the players.

“It’s not that long ago, and we’re one goal better off.”

Nemanja Matic could play for the first time in three games after illness, and Alexis Sanchez has travelled after recovering from a knee injury that has kept him out for the last six weeks.

Sanchez is likely to be on the bench, and Solskjaer hopes the former Barcelona star can produce against his old club to make up for a poor season if he gets on.

“Alexis has been here and played, and when he’s on the pitch, he wants to prove a point for us as well,” said the United manager.

“He’s been injured and not had a fantastic season so far. Let’s hope he can end the season great.”

When it comes to making an impact off the bench at the Nou Camp, no-one knows better than Solskjaer.

Daily Mail