Manchester United 0 Barcelona 2
The Barcelona fans were already celebrating their victory with minutes to spare last night, but they could have started celebrating with 80 minutes to spare if they had known what was to come. Manchester United failed to capitalise on a flying start and a nervous Barcelona defence; and after ten minutes Andres Iniesta scored a goal that left Chelsea fans suffering flashbacks from three weeks ago when he secured Barca’s place in this final with a goal in the final seconds at Stamford Bridge.
Apart from a few brief flourishes in the Barcelona area, Manchester United were mere spectators in this game… but at least they weren’t bored by the show. The sniper accuracy and free- flowing movement of Iniesta and Xabi in midfield, headed by the lightning fast Lionel Messi ahead of them, had all the terrifying beauty of a mythological creature, and was truly worthy of an Ovid poem.
The late arrival of Berbatov and Scholes failed to make any mark on a stretched but determined Barcelona back line; and with Ronaldo losing his temper, and his fight with Puyol, the only interesting play from United came from a few links between Tevez and Rooney down the right wing.
Manchester United did not represent the premier league last night, leaving that duty to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on earlier in the month. And as I hinted at in my pre-match report, the uncontrollable and limitless power and agility of Pep Guardiola’s Herculean Barcelona side surely trampled Alex Ferguson’s legendary but, on the day, timid side. The only battle left for United to succeed in was the fight between Christiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi for the title of Europe’s greatest footballer. Well they were both left stunned in the wake of an extraordinary performance by Andres Iniesta. He wrested control from the United midfield and caused enough trouble on his own to consume the energy and might of an army of Manchester players.
There can be no doubt, even from the Manchester camp, that the best team on the night won. It was one of the finest performances I have ever seen in Europe, and it almost makes up for the events that occurred at Stamford Bridge earlier in the month.