Among the many challenges facing the space weather modelling community today, is the need for validation and verification methods of the numerical models available describing the complex nonlinear Sun-Earth system. Magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) models represent the latest numerical models of this environment and have the unique ability to span the enormous distances present in the magnetosphere, from several hundred kilometres to several thousand kilometres above the Earth’s surface. This makes it especially difficult to develop verification and validation methods which posses the same range spans as the models. In this paper we present a first general large-scale comparison between four years (2001–2004) worth of in situ Cluster plasma observations and the corresponding simulated predictions from the coupled Block-Adaptive-Tree-Solarwind-Roe-Upwind-Scheme (BATS-R-US) MHD code. The comparison between the in situ measurements and the model predictions reveals that by systematically constraining the MHD model inflow boundary conditions a good correlation between the in situ observations and the modeled data can be found. These results have an implication for modelling studies addressing also smaller scale features of the magnetosphere. The global MHD simulation can therefore be used to place localised satellite and/or ground-based observations into a global context and fill the gaps left by measurements.