Barcelona are kings of Europe after brushing Man United aside
Pep Guardiola's men produce a scintillating display to win fourth European cup after thrilling Wembley final
Barcelona were crowned kings of Europe for a fourth time, crushing Manchester United with a free-flowing and destructive performance of the calibre that has become synonymous with Pep Guardiola’s Catalan maestros.
It took 27 minutes for Pedro to fire Barca into the lead but in truth this tie swung in the La Liga champions’ favour after just 10.
Wayne Rooney briefly restored hope for United with a well-worked equaliser 10 minutes before the break at Wembley.
But up stepped the majestic Lionel Messi to claim his 53rd goal of the season before David Villa put the final beyond doubt with a brilliant third.
Despite mustering brief spells of resistance, Sir Alex Ferguson’s men were taught a brutal footballing lesson on home soil as Barcelona scaled new heights on the biggest of stages.
United had in fact started more brightly than their Catalan opponents, efficiently preventing them from settling into their usual mesmeric rhythm.
Indeed, during the opening moments of this Wembley final it was United who looked the more determined to add to their domestic crown.
But it was not long before Barcelona gained a foothold.
Barca carved the first real opening after 14 minutes when Villa fed Xavi, who expertly found Pedro, but the Spain international placed his low effort wide of the right post.
Moments later Villa smashed a right-footed strike fizzing just wide of Edwin van der Sar’s post from the edge of the box.
A concerned Ferguson stepped down into his technical area. Alarm bells were clearly ringing in the United camp.
And rightly so. With a sense of inevitability, Barcelona took the lead after 27 minutes after a flowing attacking move which started in the centre circle.
Xavi, who completed 79 passes in the first half alone, burst forward before flicking a delightful ball into the path of Pedro. The 23-year-old La Masia graduate fired a right-footed effort past Van der Sar to deservedly put his side ahead.
For United fans, what had unfolded up until this point will have brought back haunting memories of their 2-0 defeat by Guardiola’s men in Rome two years ago.
But Rooney was on hand to tear up the script when he smashed home a brilliant equaliser after 34 minutes.
The England striker collected the ball on the right and hit a quick one-two with Michael Carrick before powering towards goal and playing another neat exchange with Ryan Giggs, who appeared to be just offside.
The 25-year-old forward then smashed a thunderous effort past a helpless Victor Valdes and into the top-left corner to restore parity before half-time.
Rooney’s equaliser, however, only served to delay the inevitable – it took Barca just nine minutes to restore their lead after the break.
Messi, who had never before found the net on English soil, picked up Andres Iniesta’s pass on the edge of the box and fired a low left-footed effort to the right of Van der Sar.
With Xavi and Iniesta now pulling the strings in midfield with consummate ease, Villa was on hand to put this year’s title beyond doubt in stunning fashion.
The 29-year-old Spain forward collected Pedro’s pass on the edge of the box before stroking a superb right-footed strike into the top-right corner.
It was a goal worthy of the occasion and in truth, United were only able to contain the Barcelona onslaught for short periods in the capital tonight.
Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola said:
“I am obviously very happy. It takes so much to win this tournament; it always does. We had some time to prepare this encounter and I thought we played excellently tonight.
“We went 1-0 up but we knew that with all of United’s history and stature in the game they would come back at us. In the end, though, we managed to control the match and we won very well.”
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said:
“I expected us to do better but at the end of the day we have to acknowledge that we were beaten by a better team.
“The best team we have ever faced. It has been a good season for us with two Wembley appearances – it’s just a shame it ends on such a disappointing note.
“But there is no shame in losing to Barcelona. We have proved that we are a good European side but every now and again you come up against a team that are better than you, and this is that night.”
Barcelona: Valdes, Dani Alves (Puyol 88), Pique, Mascherano, Abidal; Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta; Pedro (Afellay 90), Messi, Villa (Keita 86).
Subs not used: OlazÃƒÂ¡bal, Bojan, Adriano, Thiago.
Manchester United: Van der Sar; Fabio (Nani 69), Ferdinand, VidiÃ„”¡, Evra; Valencia, Carrick (Scholes 76), Giggs, Park; Rooney, HernÃƒÂ¡ndez.
Subs not used: Kuszaczak, Owen, Anderson, Smalling, Fletcher.