It's a game every football fan dreams of. When United drew the Catalans in 1994, over 7,000 Reds travelled.
Tickets were hard to come by and the 114,500 crowd remains the biggest to see a United match in the last 50 years. Camp Nou, the biggest football stadium in Europe, has since been reduced to 98,600 seats and it's likely to be full for the visit of City.
Blues began booking trips to Catalonia soon after the Champions League draw yesterday. Getting there won't be the issue. Daily flights from Manchester are sadly reduced in spring compared to summer and autumn, but the budget airline hub of Girona is 100 kilometres to the north. Trains between Barcelona and France are much improved, but most fans will fly on charter flights.
Visiting clubs to Camp Nou receive up to 4,900 tickets for Champions League matches. All but 300 executive seats are high up on the third tier, which curves around from the scoreboard behind one goal towards the half way line. The seats are uncovered. Not for nothing do Barca have plans to either redevelop the famous stadium or move to a new home nearby, yet they'll still charge around 100 Euros (£80) for s seat in the away end. Watching Barca at home is not cheap unless you own a season ticket.
United have drawn Barca seven times in competition, including three European finals. City have played Barca six times, but only in friendlies. The demand to see both games will be huge and as those Blues who saw the Gamper pre-season game in 2009 will attest, Barcelona is a fantastic city. It's easy to get around (Camp Nou is served by six metro stops) and there's lots to do. There are even two bars called 'Manchester'. The owners, a Catalan and Chilean, are fans of Mancunian music rather than football. One of the bars is done out like the Hacienda.
The draw was viewed as being a tough one in Catalonia. Barca, the current league leaders, are slight favourites, but many of their fans are less than impressed by the style of football under new boss Tata Martino. Too many compare every Barca side to Pep Guardiola's team which won the six major competitions they enter ed in 2009, ensuring standards are almost impossibly high. When Barca lost a league gam e in Bilbao recently, their first and so far only defeat in the league, the headline one paper screamed 'This Is Not Our Barca'.
The players disagree and feel they have a point to prove. Many of the stars of the team which outclassed United in two Champions League finals remain. Lionel Messi has been injured and will spend Christmas in Argentina, but will be back in January. Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Sergio Busquets, Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique, Pedro, Jordi Alba and Victor Valdes, all of them regulars with world champions Spain, are supplemented by the brilliant Brazilians Daniel Alves and Neymar. Alexis Sanchez, the Chilean winger who was a target for United and City in 2011, is having his best season to date.
There will be an edge off the field too, with relations between the former Barca chief Ferran Soriano who now heads up Manchester City and current Barca president Sandro Rosell frosty rather than friendly. "I think City are favourites," said Santi Giminez, a Barca specialist for the newspaper AS. "The fans know it could be a great tie, but they think City are very difficult opponents. They saw how they played against Arsenal and they've not been happy with the way Barca have been playing. If Messi is back at the top of his game, things could be different"