The Special One finally allowed emotion to get the better of him on Sunday when tears were clearly visible in his eyes after Inter Milan wrapped up a fifth straight Serie A title and the second part of a potential treble.
Manchester United palpably failed to become the first team to retain the European Cup in the Champions League era but few would bet against Barcelona managing the feat next season.
Barcelona deposed Manchester United as European champions with an outstanding 2-0 victory in the Champions League final at the Stadio Olimpico on Wednesday.
Full-time: Barcelona 2 Manchester United 0.
Samuel Eto’o 10, Lionel Messi 70
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From Mark Meadows at the Stadio Olimpico:
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Not quite the dream final. United just didn’t turn up after that initial burst came to nothing. Barca did what they had to do without being amazing. Did Fergie’s talk of greatness in the buildup get to his men? I’ve never seen United look so nervy. Well done Pep Guardiola.
– – – – 2-0 to Barcelona. Messi nods in after a hanging cross for what is a rare header from the Argentine. Ferdinand was no where near him. Game over? A chant of MESSI, MESSI MESSI rings out from my right. – – – – Wayne Rooney, who has been quiet all night and is now patrolling the right wing, has just failed to put two crosses in to the dangerzone with United well-placed. Dimitar Berbatov is taking off his tracksuit… And he’s on for Park.
– – – – Park is a hair’s breadth from nodding in a Rooney cross, and Park’s got longish floppy hair. United resorting to old fashioned English crosses to try to get a foothold back in the game. – – – – 53: Xavi strikes the post with a low freekick and Van der Sar barely moved at first. Tevez has hardly touched it since coming on. How many packs of gum does Fergie have? – – – –
50: Messi wants a penalty for a push in the box but the referee and most of the neutrals shake their heads. – – – – Tevez on for Anderson was pretty predictable given the Brazilian did nothing in the first 45. Tevez has the chance to make a name for himself on what could be his last game for United. Henry tests Van der Sar from close in. – – – – A curious first half, that. United made such a good start that I bet many of their more pessimistic fans were just waiting for Barcelona to get one against the run of play. United were very cool after going behind. They could probably do with getting in amongst the Barcelona midfield a bit more, stop Barca winning the ball back so quickly. Plenty of time before they have to panic. – – – – 45: Messi has just stormed into the box and Van der Sar fluffed the safe and the ball nearly ran free. That’s got the Barca crowd really excited, especially with United’s midfield all over the place at the moment. Half-time. – – – – 43: Victor Valdes, who took a bit of a knock earlier and is not taking goalkicks, has just been forced to rush out of goal to prevent Ronaldo from a clean run on goal. He’ll be needing some treatment at halftime. – – – – 35: United looking a bit nervous, especially in defence with some tentative passing. Strange for the holders… The fans in Red look especially tense too. – – – – 25: Xavi curls a freekick just over. That caused a lot of ooohs from the crowd. Lionel Messi had earlier shot over but United have still had the better chances despite being behind. – – – – 16: Is former United defender Gerard Pique a lucky man? The Barca centre-back blocks a barnstorming Ronaldo run and gets a yellow, but some in the press box are howling that he was last man. Ryan Giggs shoots over with the free kick. – – – –
10: 1-0 to Barcelona: Samuel Eto’o. Completely against the run of play Eto’o beats Nemanja Vidic very easily to get into the box and his shot goes in despite Edwin van der Sar getting touch. That followed two more good chances for Ronaldo. Was Barcelona’s first attack… – – – – 2: Cristian Ronaldo, who looks dashing in all white (Real Madrid might like that) tests Victor Valdes with a long range free kick first up which the keeper spills. Park Ji-sung is unable to get the rebound on target. The United fans suddenly get noisier. – – – – 1: Barcelona kick off.
Major finals featuring the best teams and the best players, the ones we talk up in advance as being for the connoisseur, often turn out to be the most disappointing, don’t they? Maybe it’s stage fright, too much respect for the opposition or the stakes being just too high, but great teams often seem to save their worst football for finals.
There’s still a long way to go to the final in Rome but from what we saw over the first legs of the opening knock-out round of the Champions League a lot of people will be expecting another all-English affair at the Olympic Stadium.