Barca 3 Man Utd 1
Sky Sports continues a review of the best finals from the Champions League era with a look at 2010/11, when Lionel Messi's magic led Barcelona to a stunning win over Manchester United at Wembley
By Ryan Parrish
Last Updated: 26/08/13 4:59pm
Manchester United were subject to a Barcelona masterclass as Pep Guardiola's side were 3-1 winners in the 2011 UEFA Champions League final at Wembley.
Having already lifted the trophy in their domestic leagues, both clubs were on the hunt for their fourth European title, with United looking to inflict revenge on the team who had beaten them in the final two years earlier.
Barcelona got off to a slow start. United gave them no time or space in the opening minutes and prevented the Spaniards from playing their trademark possession game, which had seen them lose only once in the competition. After two early half-chances from Javier Hernandez, Barcelona stepped into gear and began to get into their familiar rhythm, controlling proceedings and frustrating their opponents.
They opened the scoring just before the half-hour mark, when Xavi's jinking run and pass parted the United defence to pick out Pedro. The striker had found space and he wrong-footed Edwin van der Sar to rifle into the bottom corner. Barcelona looked to be in control of the game but, just seven minutes later, things were all square when Wayne Rooney equalised with a stunning strike. He exchanged passes with Michael Carrick and Ryan Giggs before stroking the ball into the top corner past a stranded Victor Valdes, despite suggestions Giggs may have strayed offside in the build-up.
After the break, Lionel Messi almost restored Barcelona's lead only for his effort to be cleared off the line by Patrice Evra. But, just two minutes later, they found themselves back in front. Messi, who had caused United endless problems throughout the game, drove forward and as the defence stood off, he found the bottom corner with a 20-yard strike.
Barcelona's second-half dominance continued, with Messi and Xavi coming close to extending their lead. But, in the 69th minute, it was David Villa who made it three. After Messi had tormented the back four with a mazy run into the box, the ball found Villa lurking outside of the area and the Spain international curled an inch-perfect effort past the flailing Van der Sar. Sir Alex Ferguson's side threatened to hit back instantly. But Rooney fired over and Nani also shot wide late to mean Barcelona held on for a comfortable win to claim their third Champions League crown in five years.
Barcelona's prowess as a force in Europe had reached its peak after a game in which they amassed a staggering 68 per cent possession and reduced their opponents to just three shots all night. Post-match, Ferguson was gracious in defeat, conceding his team were outclassed on the night.
"Nobody has given us a hiding like that but they deserve it," he said. "They play the right way and they enjoy their football. They do mesmerise you with their passing and we never really did control Messi. But many people have said that."
The United boss continued to heap praise on Barcelona, as he said: "In my time as manager, it is the best team I have faced. I think great teams do go in cycles, and I think the cycle they are in at the moment makes them the best in Europe. There is no question of that."
After scoring his first goal in England, Messi was named Man of the Match. But he downplayed the award, focusing on the achievements of his team. The Argentinian said: "To be the Man of the Match is the least important thing, because it was incredible how we played." He continued: "We were very good in all areas. We are very happy to lift another trophy. It was a difficult season. But we showed who we are. We were the better team."
Inspired by the genius of Messi, Barcelona eased to victory as their supremacy in Europe continued, lifting their fourth and last European Cup to date.
I remember this being a fantastic day for Wembley and for football in the United Kingdom, full of marvellous pageantry and support. I have been to Wembley many, many, many times since my first visit in 1958 and I cannot ever recall it being so colourful and worthy of such a big occasion. It was not a good result from a Manchester United perspective. But aside from that it was a brilliant evening. I remember saying something about Saturday night fever as it had only recently moved to Saturday night the year before and it was truly a fabulous performance by Barcelona to win the game. They needed to be at their brilliant best to beat United's very best efforts. It was a wonderful evening.