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Brilliant Barca ruin United's Euro dream

<strong>BARCELONA (2)</strong> vs <strong>MANCHESTER UTD (0)</strong><br /><br />MANCHESTER UNITED&rsquo;S dream of becoming the first team to retain the Champions League fell apart last night in Rome, unpicked by masterful Barcelona and their Argentine inspiration Lionel Messi.<br /><br />United swaggered into the Stadio Olimpico as slight favourites but shuffled out having been soundly beaten, Samuel Eto&rsquo;o&rsquo;s early strike sending them reeling before Messi&rsquo;s second-half header put the result beyond doubt.<br /><br />A two-goal cushion was a just measure of Barcelona&rsquo;s superiority on the night, having controlled all but the first 10 minutes with their meticulous passing game and come within a post&rsquo;s width of another goal.<br /><br />The Catalan club&rsquo;s performance also served as a fitting distillation of a season on which their attractive, free-scoring approach has won them fans across the continent; few would begrudge their coronation as United&rsquo;s successors. Messi, meanwhile, looks likely to succeed Cristiano Ronaldo as World Player if the Year, having outshone the United man and proven his appetite for the biggest occasions with a 38th goal of a remarkable campaign.<br /><br />Victory saw Barcelona claim the European Cup for the third time in their history, and complete a league, cup and European treble unprecedented in Spanish football. It also marked a huge personal triumph for rookie manager Pep Guardiola &ndash; the youngest to lead a team to the trophy &ndash; who has transformed the fortunes of the side he once captained in the first season of his first senior role.<br /><br />For United, defeat ruined their tilt at history and means they end the season with three trophies: the Premier League, Carling Cup and World Club Cup. It may also prove to be Ronaldo&rsquo;s swansong, with the Portugese strongly rumoured to be heading to Real Madrid this summer.<br /><br />The final was billed as a clash of the world&rsquo;s two best players, and Ronaldo looked determined to prove his worth in an opening period in which United had dizzy Barca on the ropes. A thumping free-kick leapt out of Victor Valdes&rsquo; grasp, Ji-Sung Park narrowly missing the rebound, before Ronaldo fizzed a volley inches wide.<br /><br />But the match turned in the 10th minute when the outstanding Andres Iniesta surged through midfield and fed Eto&rsquo;o. The Cameroon striker cut in from the right, beat Nemanja Vidic, and poked sharply past a stunned Edwin van der Sar. Suddenly Barca were rampant, Messi and Xavi going close before half-time. Little changed after the interval, despite United throwing on Carlos Tevez, Thierry Henry shooting at Van der Sar after bamboozling Rio Ferdinand, and Xavi&rsquo;s free-kick hitting the post.<br /><br />With 25 minutes left United went for broke, sending on a fourth forward in Dimitar Berbatov. But moments later the net was bulging at the other end, Messi peeling away from Ferdinand to guide Xavi&rsquo;s measured cross across goal and past Van der Sar.