ROME - The dream Champions League final did not materialise as Manchester United showed rare stage fright and Barcelona won without having to produce a stellar performance. All the talk had been of the final most neutrals wanted, both teams the champions of their countries and blessed with the world's greatest attacking talent. But the curtain fell timidly on Manchester United's European reign as the Catalans won the trophy for the second time in four years and third overall courtesy of a regulation 2-0 victory. From the moment Samuel Eto'o grabbed the early opener, the script looked ready for 38-year-old Pep Guardiola to seal European football's top title in his first season as coach. His team completed the treble following their domestic league and cup successes, the first time it has been done in Spanish football. Few would argue they are worthy of that honour given the stunning displays this season which have left defenders and spectators dumbstruck. Wednesday's showing in Rome was not out of the top drawer but the Catalan party-goers will care little, especially after they edged through in stoppage-time in the semi-final of attrition against Chelsea. "We are very happy," Guardiola told reporters. "We started badly but the goal calmed us down and in general we played a good match." Lionel Messi, playing in the middle of the front three between Eto'o and fit-again Thierry Henry, made good runs but did nothing extraordinary. That a man of his size was given space by Rio Ferdinand to head home Barcelona's second on 70 minutes from eight metres was significant. ESPECIALLY TENTATIVE Despite being the holders and starting with their first- choice team, United looked nervous and their usually solid defence looked especially tentative. "Tonight the defending it has to be said was shoddy, the first goal in particular which gave them a great boost," Ferguson told a news conference. "We were well beaten, the better team won." The English side had conceded just six goals in this season's competition before the game but you would not have guessed it. Barca were without three usual starters in defence but United's backline was sloppy throughout. Serb Nemanja Vidic is usually as hard as nails but Eto'o made him melt like butter when he drifted past before firing a shot through a slightly slow Edwin van der Sar. United had the better early chances but it was all because of Cristiano Ronaldo's sublime skills and willingness to shoot from just about anywhere. His team mates lacked drive and it was little surprise when Alex Ferguson took off the ineffective Anderson for Carlos Tevez at halftime. The Argentine, however, barely had a touch. QUIET ROONEY More weak defending from United followed in the second half as Andres Iniesta cut right through their heart. Ferguson, known for his willingness to rant and rave when needed, stayed rooted to his seat and rarely ventured out to bark orders. When the quiet Wayne Rooney failed to keep the ball in play during a good move, he angrily castigated himself but it was the vision of a man, shunted out onto the right, who looked tired after a long, hard season. The old adage says Manchester United always score, but not this time. Even Ronaldo looked half-hearted when presented with a good chance following Barca's second on 70 minutes. Barca were in contrast much calmer on the ball, stroking it about at will just as Spain and man-of-the match Xavi did when winning Euro 2008. United won their treble 10 years ago but had to wait nine years for another European title. Few would bet against Barcelona becoming the first team to retain the trophy in the Champions League era. UNITED FANS! Check FourFourTwo.com’s ever-expanding interviews archive for more stuff to read: Web Exclusives Wayne Rooney, Peter Schmeichel, Carlos Tevez Q&A Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ruud Van Nistlerooy One on One David Beckham, George Best Ask A Silly Question Bryan Robson Boy's A Bit Special Danny Simpson Perfect XI Garth Crooks, Bryan Robson, Sir Bobby Charlton, Eric Cantona What Happened Next? David May, Norman Whiteside Sing When You’re Winning Dominic Monaghan, Ian Brown And Another Thing Being a Big Four fan Plus! Rate United players (and others) on Talentspotter BARCELONA FANS! Check FourFourTwo.com’s ever-expanding interviews section for more stuff to read: Q&A Samuel Eto'o, Cesc Fabregas Web Exclusives Cesc Fabregas, Gary Lineker One on One Mark Hughes, Thierry Henry, Ronaldo Perfect XI Gheorghe Hagi, Hristo Stoichkov, Ronald Koeman Plus! Rate Barca players (and others) on Talentspotter
28 May 2009
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