27/05/2009 21:19, Report by Jon Crampin
Deposed as Kings of Europe
United’s dreams of becoming the first team to retain the Champions League ended in heartbreak in Rome, as goals from Samuel Eto’o and Lionel Messi gave an impressive Barcelona a deserved victory in the Stadio Olimpico.
It meant that the Reds tasted defeat in a European Cup final for the first time - having won the previous three final appearances of 1968, 1999 and 2008 - but on the night there could be few arguments with the outcome.
Barcelona were simply the better side over all bar the first 10 minutes and in deposing the reigning champions, Pepe Guardiola's side - Spain's first Treble-winners - proved themselves worthy new holders of the crown.
United began the stronger side and came close to opening the scoring, but after Eto’o had fired the Spaniards into an undeserved early lead, Barcelona dominated, with Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta repeatedly probing the Reds' defence.
Sir Alex Ferguson brought on Carlos Tevez for Anderson at half-time and later replaced Ji-sung Park with Dimitar Berbatov as United went in search of an equaliser. But just as the Reds were sensing a way back into the game, Barcelona delivered the crushing blow. A spell of pressure ended with Xavi sending in a teasing cross which found the unmarked Messi, who headed home past the stranded van der Sar.
Not even the introduction of Paul Scholes - match-winner against Barcelona in last season's semi-final at Old Trafford - could turn the tide of possession in United's favour. Despite the efforts of all fourteen players deployed at the end of an epic season, the Reds were, for once, second best on the biggest stage.