Messi shines as Barcelona leave United in the dark

Wembley Stadium, London – 28/05/2011 – Final
Barcelona
Barcelona
Pedro Rodríguez 27 Messi 54 Villa 69
3 - 1
Man. United
  • Rooney 34
Man. United
Touch of genius

"I remember everything about that day because that is the day in football I treasure most." Daniel Alves

2010/11

• Lionel Messi scored in the final to take his tally to 12 for the season – equalling Ruud van Nistelrooy's competition record. He also became the first player to finish leading scorer three seasons running.

• MŠK Žilina's 7-0 loss to Olympique de Marseille was the competition's heaviest home defeat. The Slovakian side did not pick up a point in Group F and a goal difference of -16 was a group stage record.

• FC Internazionale Milano's Javier Zanetti became the competition's oldest scorer at 37 years and 71 days on Matchday 3. The mark lasted a fortnight before Filippo Inzaghi – 15 days older – hit twice for AC Milan.

Just as in 1992, Wembley provided the setting for FC Barcelona glory as they turned on the style to beat Manchester United FC 3-1 and claim their fourth European crown. The Catalan side were worthy winners, taking the lead through Pedro Rodríguez and responding to Wayne Rooney's equaliser with superb second-half strikes from Lionel Messi and David Villa.

However, as in the Rome final of 2009 when United lost to the same opponents, Sir Alex Ferguson's side had raced out of the blocks, with Víctor Valdés forced into urgent action to deny Rooney. Barcelona seemed edgy but soon clicked into gear and fashioned the first opening on the quarter-hour as Xavi Hernández drove in a low cross that Pedro turned wide.

Villa then flashed a shot off target before forcing a low save from Edwin van der Sar. Nemanja Vidić foiled Messi but, on 27 minutes, United were undone. Xavi was the architect, advancing and picking out Pedro with a diagonal pass. The winger's movement carried him clear of Vidić on the right and he applied a cool finish, side-footing into the near corner.

Just seven minutes later United scored a fine equaliser, their first and only attempt on target. After Barcelona had lost the ball from an Éric Abidal throw-in, Rooney surged forward, playing a one-two with Michael Carrick. He then slipped a pass to Ryan Giggs inside the area and met the Welshman's return with a superb curled finish.

Parity was short-lived. Although Van der Sar saved from Daniel Alves, Messi restored their advantage after 54 minutes, the Argentinian firing in from 20 metres. Messi could have had more goals as Barcelona went for the kill. Van der Sar denied him with his legs before Fabio kept out his back-heeled effort with a goal-line block.

Van der Sar, in his final appearance before retiring, offered a fitting reminder of his class with a full-length dive to foil Xavi but had no chance with Villa's exquisite curling effort after 69 minutes. Barcelona were on their Wembley way again.

Star players

  • Messi

    Messi made his Liga debut aged 17 years and 114 days, and went on to become arguably the most gifted footballer of his generation. He needed only 314 appearances to become FC Barcelona's all-time leading scorer in all competitions. Three times winner of the Ballon d'Or, he has three UEFA Champions Leagues to his name and in 2011/12 was top scorer in the competition for a record fourth straight season.

  • Rooney

    "The best young player this country has seen in 30 years" was sir Alex Ferguson's assessment of Rooney when Manchester United FC signed him in August 2004. Then the youngest scorer in Premier League history, he struck an audacious hat-trick on his United debut – a 6-2 UEFA Champions League group stage win against Fenerbahçe SK – and won the competition in 2008 as well as playing in the 2009 and 2011 finals.

  • Xavi Hernández

    A one-club man, Xavi established himself as a classy midfield linchpin for FC Barcelona and Spain with his composure, exquisite technique and killer distribution. He has helped Barça to six Liga titles and three UEFA Champions Leagues, picking up a record number of appearances in the process, while triumphing with Spain at UEFA EURO 2008, the 2010 FIFA World Cup and UEFA EURO 2012.

What happened next?

• Manhcester United FC's Edwin van der Sar stuck to his plan to retire after the final, but team-mate Paul Scholes went back on his decision and returned to action in January 2012.

• Both teams lost their domestic league titles the following season. United missed out to Manchester City FC on the final day; FC Barcelona finished nine points adrift of Real Madrid CF.

• Barcelona also failed to retain the UEFA Champions League, losing 3-2 on aggregate to Chelsea FC in the semi-finals. Coach Josep Guardiola left at the end of the season.

• Lionel Messi enjoyed a successful campaign, becoming Barcelona's all-time leading scorer and finishing top scorer in the UEFA Champions League for a record fourth straight season.

• Sir Alex Ferguson's side failed to reach the knockout stages in the 2011/12 UEFA Champions League after suffering a shock 2-1 defeat by FC Basel 1893 on matchday six.

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