Home » Champ League, Latest » CL Final Match Report: Barcelona 3 Manchester United 1

Beneath the soaring Wembley arch, Barcelona ascended to new heights.

Inspired by an exhilarating Lionel Messi Pep Guardiola’s team swept past Manchester United in a thrilling performance and, with their third title in the last six seasons, they earned the right to be called one of the very greatest club sides in the history of the game.

United had moments of sporadic resistance but Barcelona were simply too good. Wayne Rooney scored a superb goal to equalise Pedro’s opener but in the second half, with goals from Messi and David Villa, Barcelona ran away from them.

This, in 90 minutes of excellence, was the consummation of the Dutch philosophy imported to the club by Johan Cruyff two decades ago, refined by Frank Rijkaard and now perfected by Guardiola. The Barcelona manager was on this pitch when his club won their first European Cup back in 1992 but not even Cruyff’s dream team are a match for this gifted group.

Sir Alex Ferguson had desperately sought a way to prevent his side succumbing to Barcelona’s mesmeric passing as they had done in Rome two years ago and he decided to be bold sending on a team in the best United tradition of attacking football, with two strikers and two wingers.

That positive decision was reflected in the way United started the game. This was intense and aggressive, giving Barcelona a taste of their own full-court press. Park ji-sung made three superb tackles in the first five minutes alone, including one on Messi.

The fact that Carles Puyol had not been considered fit enough to start may have helped United, but Barcelona certainly looked rattled in the opening exchanges. Victor Valdes had to come racing off his line to punch away from Rooney and then Gerard Pique almost passed the ball beyond the Barcelona goalkeeper under pressure from Javier Hernandez.

That initial burst of energy waned, though, and with quarter of an hour played, Barcelona began to find their composure. Xavi began to take control and Pedro missed a great chance at the near post. Messi made his first darting run of the game, finishing it with a pass to Pedro; Vidic had to be alert to close him down.

Barcelona were really into their stride by now, and with 20 minutes gone, and decoy runners sprinting everywhere, Villa nudged the ball outside Vidic and hit a crisp shot wide of the near post. A minute later he got away from Evra but could not beat Van der Sar from the angle.

First Vidic then Ferdinand tackled Messi brilliantly but, having started with a high defensive line, United were being pushed deeper and deeper. United were struggling to hold onto the ball when they won it back, and edge of desperation about their passing and Hernandez, perhaps nervous, repeatedly offside when they needed his pace as an outlet.

It was, then, little surprise that Barcelona took the lead. Andres Iniesta exchanged passes with Sergio Busquets before poking the ball through to Xavi. Giggs was not close enough and the Barcelona captain, head up, eyes darting, closed on the United box, flicking an exquisite pass with the outside of his boot to Pedro.

The Barcelona forward had discreetly evaded Evra and Vidic could not get across in time to prevent him passing the ball past Van der Sar at the near post.

All that training ground work at Carrington, designed to prevent a repeat of the 2009 final, was beginning to look futile: Barcelona were dominant. Ferguson was becoming animated on the touchline, clearly frustrated at the way his team were surrendering possession.

Yet United were not going to go down without a fight, equalising with a goal in the style of their opponents. Rooney picked up a loose ball on the right and played a quick one-two with Carrick before surging towards the Barcelona box. He then flicked the ball to Giggs with the outside of his boot and the Welshman, who may have been just offside, cushioned it with his thigh before teeing up Rooney again. The England striker crashed his powerful shot past Valdes.

Not that Barcelona appeared too shaken. A brilliant free-kick routine between Xavi and Busquets almost found Pedro and then Messi set off on one of his incredible runs, skipping clear of Vidic, sprinting away from Carrick before finding Villa on the right with a perfect pass.

Villa’s return cross was just ahead of the Argentina forward. United may have had parity at the break but with Barcelona having two thirds of the possession something needed to change radically in the second half. It didn’t. Barcelona came out sensing victory and Van der Sar was swiftly called into action, saving with his legs from Alves – Evra headed away Messi’s follow up.

They could not keep them out for long, not sitting that deep and with that little of the ball. Iniesta and Xavi were almost at walking pace in the last third when they worked the ball to Messi, who drove to the ‘D’ and shot low and into the net. He should have been closed down more effectively but the shot was almost in the middle of the goal and it was a concession way below Van der Sar’s usual standards.

The Dutchman did his best to make up for it, saving first from Messi with his legs and then brilliantly from Xavi’s effort to beat with a curving shot from range. There was, though, nothing he could do to stop Barcelona’s third, the goal that effectively ended the game.

Messi again went shimmying into the United area and when the ball broke to Busquets, he rolled it to the edge of the area where Villa had taken up position. He showed just why he is Spain’s top goalscorer in their history, rolling his studs over the ball before striking an accurate, dipping shot into the top corner of Van der Sar’s net.

There were sporadic efforts on United’s part to get back into the game. Rooney hit a shot on to the roof of the net from range and Giggs was convinced his team should have had a late penalty. It showed the mental strength of those two players that they refused to give up the fight – even against all the evidence of Barcelona’s superiority.

Ferguson’s gracious congratulation of Guardiola at the final whistle said it all.

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