IT is survival of the fittest.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, getting set for his biggest game as Manchester United manager, promised to run his players into the ground at the Nou Camp.
4 Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will make sure his Man Utd players are fighting fit when they taken on Barcelona in the Nou Camp second leg
He knows Barcelona will have the ball for long periods, wearing Solskjaer’s side down with their possession obsession.
United, fit as butcher’s dogs when Alex Ferguson was in charge, will rely on some classic characteristics to unseat Barca.
There will be blood, sweat and tears out there, just the way English teams like it, as United try to pull off another extraordinary comeback.
The Norwegian boss said: “I expect my players to be ready because this is the Nou Camp and they will run until the cramp stops them.
“We are still in the tie. We are physically taller than them, we are bigger than them but we need to get forward.
“We didn’t stamp our authority on the game in the first leg and we didn’t create enough chances.
“Barcelona can have 80-85 per cent possession but we still have to perform. It’s in the DNA of their players to want to control the ball but we have to come here and expect to work hard.
“We gave them too much time on the ball in the first leg.”
For United to retrieve this, to evoke memories of their victory over Juventus in the group phase or the stunning win over Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16, will be remarkable.
It means Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic, Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford will have to put in the mother of all shifts.
Solskjaer believes in them but the more times you say Ashley Young, Diogo Dalot, Victor Lindelof and Chris Smalling, the more you fear for them.
This is not a Champions League semi-final back four.
Somehow they have made it to a quarter-final, stepping out for this second leg because of their improbable comeback against PSG in the previous round.
Solskjaer added: “The memory of PSG will help the players, it will help us as a team and convince us we can turn things around.
“Barca at the Nou Camp is a different prospect but the memory of that night against PSG will live with the players. It is not that long ago.
“The way to score goals is the million-dollar question in football and that is why the best strikers are the most expensive.
“We have practised our finishing but when you don’t work the keeper, you don’t score. We know we have a goal threat and we can create but it is about taking chances.”
EPA4 Anthony Martial, Matteo Darmian, Paul Pogba, Juan Mata and Alexis Sanchez go through their paces on the eve of facing Barcelona
EPA4 Barcelona trio Lionel Messi, Ousmane Dembele and Kevin Prince Boateng prepare for Man Utd with a 1-0 lead from the Old Trafford first leg
At Old Trafford last week, in a miserable 1-0 first-leg defeat, they failed to get a shot on goal for the first time since 2005.
If that had been say, oh, Jose Mourinho overseeing that statistic, he would have been buried alive with all his trophies. This is Solskjaer’s gig now, still working out a way to get the best out of an ordinary group.
Fergie squeezed the pips out of his players, pushing them to lift a ton of silverware down the years.
Solskjaer was there for some of it, famously netting the winner in the 1999 Champions League final against Bayern Munich in this stadium.
He knows fate will do him no favours tonight, especially against Lionel Messi and friends.
The Argentine returns, recovering in the nick of time from his collision with Smalling at Old Trafford.
He was absent, along with the rest of the starters, for their 0-0 draw at Huesca on Saturday. United will have to subdue him — good luck with that. Their best chance is a goal on the break, to create doubt in Barca minds by drawing level on aggregate.
Solskjaer added: “We scored against PSG after two minutes and that was a big factor. It changed our mentality.
“It will be the same for us against Barcelona because if we get the first goal it will be so important.
most read in footballIN THEIR SHADOW Arsenal fans find cheeky flaw in Spurs' stadium… but is it sour grapes? GETTING SHIRTY Deeney chucks away shirt in disgust after controversial red card WarningREFFING HELL Referee cries after Senegal goalkeeper suffers horrific double leg break TURF WAR Burnley and Cardiff yobs brawl in street leaving man KO'd & fans fleeing in terror 'I'll put you away' Martin Keown shuts down Jake Humphrey after joke backfires horribly Live BlogPREMIER LEAGUE LIVE Watford vs Arsenal LIVE SCORE: Latest updates and commentary
“There are many different factors. Against Juventus, it was Juan Mata’s goal from a free-kick that made the difference.
“When we beat Tottenham away it was down to the keeper. We have to have the right approach, mentally, tactically and physically.”
If United do that, they will be up and running.