United had lost the first leg of their Cup Winners' Cup quarter-final 2-0 at the Nou Camp through Graeme Hogg's own goal and Juan Carlos Pérez Rojo's last-minute strike.
Ron Atkinson's side were given little chance of overturning that deficit against the Spanish giants, who were managed by World-Cup winning coach Cesar Luis Menotti and boasted a certain Diego Armando Maradona in their illustrious ranks.
But United had their own icon in Bryan Robson, who showed why he was known to Red Devils fans as Captain Marvel with his display in the return at Old Trafford.
Robson began the fightback with 22 minutes gone when he connected with a diving header from Ray Wilkins' corner and then, five minutes after the break, he sent the majority of the 58,350 crowd into raptures by slamming home from close-range after Javier Urruticoechea fumbled a Wilkins cross.
UTD v BARCA PAST MEETINGS
1983-84 ECWC q-final UTD 3-2 BARCA (aggregate)
1990-91 ECWC final UTD 2-1 BARCA
1994-95 Champ Lge groups UTD 2-2 BARCA
1994-95 Champ Lge groups BARCA 4-0 UTD
1998-99 Champ Lge groups UTD 3-3 BARCA
1998-99 Champ Lge groups BARCA 3-3 UTD
The tie was level on aggregate but there was only going to be one winner. As United poured forward, Frank Stapleton latched on to a Norman Whiteside knockdown and lashed into the net from an acute angle.
United bowed out 3-2 on aggregate in the last four to a Michel Platini-inspired Juventus, while Maradona left Barcelona for Napoli at the end of the season.
But what happened to the other players who took part in that remarkable match 24 years ago? BBC Sport tracks down Arthur Albiston, Remi Moses, Jose Ramon Alexanco and the rest ahead of Wednesday's Champions League semi-final, first leg between Barcelona and Manchester United.
Atkinson spent five years in charge at Old Trafford
Manager - Ron Atkinson Flamboyant and suntanned boss who, like his Barca counterpart Menotti, enjoyed a cigar or three. 'Big Ron' won the FA Cup twice with United and the League Cup with Sheffield Wednesday, as well as taking Aston Villa to second place in the Premier League in 1993, his best finish in the top flight.
He also worked as a TV pundit before resigning from ITV in 2004 over racist remarks he made about Chelsea defender Marcel Desailly after a Champions League semi-final. Now director of football at British Gas Business Football League Premier Division side Halesowen Town.
Gary Bailey Ipswich-born but South African-bred keeper who completed a BSc in physics when in Manchester. After a knee injury ended his career in England in 1987 he returned to South Africa to play for Kaizer Chiefs and study civil engineering but, after an investment in Mabula Game Reserve went wrong, he went to Oxford to get an MBA from Henley College. Now works as a TV presenter and motivational speaker and was an ambassador for South Africa's successful bid for the 2010 World Cup.
Arthur Albiston Reliable Scottish left-back who won three FA Cups for United before teaming up again with Atkinson at West Brom in 1988. Later played for Dundee, Chesterfield, Chester, Norwegian side Molde, Ayr United, Sittingbourne, Witton Albion and Droylsden, who he also briefly managed. Now works for MUTV and also hosts tours of Old Trafford.
Kevin Moran A successful Gaelic football player, Moran, who studied commerce at University College Dublin and worked as an accountant, was spotted playing football for Dublin side Pegasus and joined United in 1978. A combative centre-back, he spent 10 years at Old Trafford and won 71 Republic of Ireland caps but became the first player to be sent off in an FA Cup final in 1985. Retired in 1994 after spells with Sporting Gijon and Blackburn and set up the Proactive sports agency with Jesper Olsen and Paul Stretford. Also owns a chain of greeting-card shops as well as working as a TV pundit.
Graeme Hogg A no-nonsense centre-half who came through the ranks at United and left for Portsmouth in 1988. Also played for Hearts, where he was best known for being punched and having his nose broken by his team-mate Craig Levein during a pre-season friendly in 1994, as well as West Brom, Notts County and Brentford. Retired in 1998 and is now a TV engineer in Falkirk.
Mike Duxbury Another to come through the ranks at Old Trafford, Duxbury was a speedy right-back who won 10 England caps. He left to join Blackburn in 1990 and finished his playing days in Hong Kong. Duxbury briefly worked as a PE teacher in Bolton but returned to Hong Kong to head up United's soccer school in Hong Kong and is now in an identical role for the club in Dubai.
Arnold Muhren A Dutch master with a wand of a left foot, Muhren won the Uefa Cup with Ipswich in 1981 and the FA Cup with United in 1983 and 1985. He lifted the Cup Winners' Cup with Ajax in 1987 and supplied the cross for Marco van Basten's spectacular volley in Holland's win over Russia in the 1988 European Championship final. Since retiring he has worked as a youth coach with FC Volendam and Ajax.
Bryan Robson Despite suffering a succession of injuries, Robson, who won 90 England caps, captained the Red Devils to three FA Cup wins and the 1991 Cup Winners' Cup final success over Barcelona. He turned down the chance to succeed Terry Venables as national boss in 1996 but, after a bright start with Middlesbrough, his managerial career has been a disappointment. Sacked by Sheffield United in February, he is back at United working as an ambassador.
Ray Wilkins Had a nomadic playing career after leaving United for AC Milan in the summer of 1984 and failed to shine as manager at QPR and Fulham. Wilkins also coached under Gianluca Vialli at Chelsea and Watford and was Dennis Wise's assistant at Millwall, where he also worked in a consultancy role. His last coaching job was as assistant to England Under-21 coach Peter Taylor. Now concentrating on his work as a TV pundit.
Remi Moses Manchester-born United fan who was the owner of one of the most famous afros in football. Moses moved to Old Trafford from West Brom along with Robson in 1981 and became the club's first black goalscorer but was forced to retire with an ankle problem in 1987, aged 28. He later coached the Manchester Warriors inline skating team and now works for the Unity in the Community scheme as coach of Old Trafford FC, a team drawn from youngsters from Moss Side.
Frank Stapleton A powerful striker, Stapleton also played for Arsenal, Ajax, Le Havre and Blackburn. He managed Huddersfield, Bradford and US side New England Revolution and briefly coached Bolton's strikers. Now a TV pundit and after-dinner speaker, he also owns a soccer school in Ireland.
Norman Whiteside The youngest player to appear at the World Cup finals, aged 17 years and 42 days, when he played for Northern Ireland in Spain in 1982. Whiteside was a bruising forward whose career was ended by a long-standing knee injury, aged 27. Now a qualified chiropodist and an after-dinner speaker.
ON 21 MARCH 1984
A Soviet submarine crashes into the USS Kitty Hawk off the coast of Japan
Part of Central Park in New York is renamed Strawberry Fields in honour of John Lennon
An EEC common market summit in Brussels collapses, with PM Margaret Thatcher coming under fire
Lionel Richie is at number one in the UK with 'Hello'
Substitutes: Mark Hughes Replaced Norman Whiteside on 72 minutes
Battling front-man who had an ill-fated spell at Barcelona after joining them for £2.3m in 1986. Hughes returned to United in 1988 and scored twice to help them beat Barca in the 1991 Cup-Winners Cup final. He won 72 caps for Wales and took charge of his country in 1999 before becoming Blackburn boss in 2004.
Menotti's tenure at Barcelona was ultimately unsuccessful
Manager - Cesar Luis Menotti The long-haired, casually-dressed coach who led Argentina to World Cup glory in 1978 left the Nou Camp in 1984 and had spells in charge of many teams, including Boca Juniors, River Plate, Atletico Madrid and Mexico. Left Mexican club Tecos in January in disgust after they sold star striker Emmanuel Villa to Derby County.
Javier Urruticoechea A Barca legend, he won the Zamora trophy as the best keeper in La Liga in 1984. After being replaced in the side by Andoni Zubizarreta, he retired in 1988 and stayed on at Barca as goalkeeping coach. Tragically died in a car crash in 2001, aged 48.
Gerardo Miranda Concepcion Born in Nouakchott, Mauritania, the reliable right-back started and finished his career with Las Palmas, playing for Barca 279 times in-between from 1981-88 and representing Spain on nine occasions too. He retired from football in 1990.
Josep Moratalla Played 220 times for Barca and was brought on for Bernd Schuster in their 1986 European Cup final defeat, much to the German schemer's disgust. Now works as a radio commentator for RNE, the public-owned Spanish national radio station and is involved in the FC Barcelona Former Players Association.
Julio Alberto A fabulously gifted left-back who had pace and loved to get forward, he won 34 caps for Spain in an illustrious career. Scored a stunning goal against Juventus in the 1986 European Cup quarter-final but retired in 1991, a year before they won their first European Cup. Now works for Barca in a community role, liaising with fan clubs and the FC Barcelona Foundation.
Victor Munoz A midfielder who represented Spain 60 times, Victor left Barca in 1988 for a spell in Italy with Sampdoria and ended his career at Scottish side St Mirren in 1991. Has had spells as a manager and at Real Mallorca, Villarreal, Zaragoza and Panathinaikos, but was sacked from last job at Recreativo Huelva in February.
Jose Ramon Alexanco Another club legend, the Basque-born defender scored the winner in the 1988 Spanish Cup final and skippered Barca to European Cup glory in 1992. He now works as a highly respected coach at the renowned Barcelona academy.
Pichi Alonso A centre-forward who once scored five goals in a game for Real Zaragoza, he hit a hat-trick in the 1986 European Cup semi-final against Gothenburg to help Barca into the final, which they lost. Ended his career at Espanyol and managed the Catalonian national side before a short spell at Metalurg Donetsk in 2006. Now works as a television commentator.
Bernd Schuster Midfield inspiration who retired from international football with Germany, aged only 24, in 1984, Schuster controversially moved to Real Madrid in 1988 and won two titles at the Bernabeu. After ending his career, became a respected manager and after two brilliant seasons with little Getafe, was appointed Real coach in 2007.
Juan Carlos Perez Rojo The talented left-sided forward played with distinction for Barca until 1987, when a serious knee injury forced him to retire from football, after he had helped the club win the league in 1985 and reach the European Cup final in 1986. Was, incidentally, named best player in the 1979 World Under-20 Championship - ahead of Maradona. Now coaches youth teams.
Maradona lifts the World Cup for Argentina in 1986
Diego Armando Maradona Where do you even begin? Arguably the world's greatest footballer, the Argentine genius left Barca in the summer of 1984 and led unfashionable Napoli to their only two Serie A titles. His greatest achievement was leading his country to victory at the 1986 World Cup with some stunning individual displays.
His career ended in disgrace, with failed drugs tests, and in 2004 he suffered a major heart attack but Maradona is now in fine health, hosts his own talk show and has become something of an ambassador for Argentina, where he is revered.
Marcos Alonso His dad Marcos Alonso Imaz, nicknamed Marquitos, won four European Cups as part of the late 1950s, early 1960s Real Madrid team that dominated football. Marcos Jr also played for Racing Santander and Atletico Madrid and won 22 caps for Spain. Managed Sevilla, Real Zaragoza and Atletico but now coaches young players.
Substitutes: Fransisco Javier Clos Orozco Replaced Pichi Alonso on 57 minutes
Paco Clos was often used as a substitute to unsettle defences and the big striker scored plenty of headers for Barca before he left in 1988, ending his career after a solitary season with Murcia. Played three times for Spain and crucially set up the goal that helped Miguel Munoz's side reach the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.
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