Wow. Barcelona thoroughly earned their position as champions of Europe by taking Manchester United to the cleaners at Wembley Stadium. The final score ended up being 3-1, but that didn't really reflect the difference between the two sides - Barcelona were absolutely dominant, out-shooting United 22-4 and out-passing them by a ludicrous figure as well. It comes as no surprise that Pep Guardiola's side emerged triumphant, but was was truly impressive is how comprehensively they destroyed a good United side, and they didn't even have to resort to Clasico tactics to do it.
Just like two years ago, when Manchester United lost 2-0 to the same opponents in Rome, Sir Alex Ferguson's team actually started very brightly, pressing the Catalans high up the pitch and causing havoc against a makeshift back line. Javier Hernandez and Wayne Rooney both had early opportunities beaten away by Barca keeper Victor Valdes, and Park Ji-Sung was hugely impressive in the way he both kept Dani Alves quiet and still found time to move inwards and pick up Xavi.
That spell, obviously, was not to last. Barcelona flipped the switch about ten minutes into the match, and from then on were almost unplayable. Pedro and David Villa both had opportunities to test Edwin van der Sar in the United goal, each hitting their shots wide, but before long they made their dominance tell with a very nice finish by Pedro, who had been left all alone on the left thanks to Patrice Evra being more worried about Lionel Messi than the 23-year-old. That proved to be a bad mistake, as Xavi simply looked up, picked him out and watched as Pedro finished with a sidefooted effort at Edwin van der Sar's near post [Watch the video of Pedro's goal].
1-0 wasn't enough for Guardiola and Barca, however, and they kept pushing forward against a stunned United side, who were forced into several last-ditch challenges to prevent them from going further ahead. Amazingly, though, it was the Premier League champions to scored next, with Wayne Rooney completing a neat (and possibly offside) one-two with Ryan Giggs and lashing home past a helpless Victor Valdez [Watch the video of Wayne Rooney's goal]. Out of nothing, the game was level at 1-1, and the score would stay the same until half time, with Barcelona still edging the chances.
The second half saw a rapidly tiring Manchester United totally capitulate, with Barcelona well and truly dominating the match, inspired mostly by Lionel Messi, who was such a threat to simply dance around a tackle that United's defenders simply stood off him rather than make a challenge. He took advantage of this in the 54th minute, when he moved towards the top of the area with four white shirts between him and the goal. Nobody bothered to close him down, so he used Nemanja Vidic as a screen before hitting a low left-footed shot past Edwin van der Sar (who might have done better) to make it 2-1 [Watch the video of Lionel Messi's goal].
More was coming, though, and it only took fifteen more minutes for Barcelona to seal the deal. David Villa had an odd first season with the La Liga giants, going cold at exactly the wrong time, but his strike in the 67th minute might go some way into making fans forget how poor he was towards the end of the regular season. Nani lost the ball in the United box and Sergio Busquets calmly fed the Spain international 18 yards out, Villa unleashing an unstoppable shot past van der Sar and into the top corner [Watch the video of David Villa's goal].
At 3-1 with barely twenty minutes to go, nobody ever really thought Manchester United were getting back into the game, and despite their attempts at clawing back a goal they simply never really threatened Victor Valdes again - Rooney's goal was actually their only shot on target all evening. Paul Scholes came in to no effect, Nani's first touch was a disaster, and three minutes of injury time could have been three hours for all the good it would have done Ferguson's side.
Barcelona were simply too good for United to come anywhere close, and as the game petered out (whilst getting just a little bit feisty) I think everyone more or less realised that. The better team won, and it wasn't close. Barcelona are your champions of Europe, and they cement their status as the best club team of their generation. This marks the club's fourth European championship, and moves Spain into first place on the all time ranks ahead of Italy.
For news, opinion, and feature articles leading up to the UEFA Champions League final, bookmark this StoryStream and check it often. We’ll have new posts right here throughout the week, during the game, and after the game. For more on the entire world of football, check out SB Nation Soccer. Manchester United fans should head over to The Busby Babe, while Barcelona fans should check out Barca Blaugranes.