Rooney: Barca setting the standard
Wayne Rooney has claimed the current Barcelona side will go down as one of the greatest teams of all time.
Manchester United have had two epic duels with the Catalans, emerging triumphant in the 2008 Champions League semi-final when Paul Scholes scored the only goal over two legs, but suffering heartache in Rome a year later when they were totally outclassed by Lionel Messi and company.
And, as thoughts begin to turn towards the resumption of this season’s competition, Rooney has already identified Barcelona as the team to beat if United are to be crowned European champions for a fourth time.
"They are the team to beat," Rooney told the official Champions League magazine.
"They are a fantastic team and people will remember what this Barcelona side have done for a long time to come, like the great Real Madrid and Manchester United teams.
"Their football is brilliant to watch and they win games playing that way, which is the main thing.
"Barcelona stand out for me. You can safely say if you beat Barcelona you have a good chance of winning the competition."
Rooney was part of the United side that followed up that Barcelona victory by overcoming Chelsea in an all-Premier League final in Moscow.
He is itching to experience the same emotions this season, not least because the final will be played at Wembley, a ground he knows so well.
It would also be a fitting way to end a turbulent season that has included a well-publicised contract wrangle, which may not have done his image much good, but Rooney insists turned out well in the end.
"It is a relief to have the contract situation sorted and feel settled," he said.
"I know I made the right decision to stay. It has been a tough time but I am looking forward to helping the team win trophies."
United tackle French giants Marseille in the first knock-out round and travel to the Stade Velodrome for the first leg on February 23.
It is a contest the Red Devils will relish, not least because the emergence of new inspirational figures has given United the freshness which has carried them to the top of the Premier League.
"Rafael has done really well this season and played a lot of games," said Rooney.
"Nani is a match winner. We always knew he had the ability but he is doing it more consistently this year.
"Anderson had a bad injury but has done really well and is playing some great football since coming back.
"If those three can keep progressing as they are then they are going to be big players for us and an important part of the team in future.
"That’s the thing about Manchester United. Great players are always coming in."