collected the ball he kept his cool to steer home United's opener via the gap between Victor Valdes' legs.
It was classic counter-attacking football from the Reds, the sort of which United fans saw far too infrequently in the last two Champions League finals. Instead, those games will always be remembered for Barcelona's staggering possession play.
Here in DC, there was less of that on display, although admittedly the Catalans were missing keep-ball kings Xavi and Messi. The less savoury side to Barcelona's game remained, though. Ashley Young and Jonny Evans were caught by wild tackles in the first half, while Sergio Busquets and David Villa both made the most of tame challenges.
Sir Alex made three changes at the break (an interval that featured basketball superstar Kobe Bryant taking penalties on the pitch) but it was Nani, United's liveliest player in the first 45 minutes, who continued to pose problems for the Barcelona defence whenever the Reds pushed forward.
At the other end, David De Gea's first save came just after the restart when he smothered Pedro's angled shot. Otherwise, the former Atletico Madrid stopper had precious little to do until the 70th minute when Thiago rifled a swerving shot into the top corner from 20 yards. There was no stopping that thunderbolt and the goal gave Barca a noticeable shot of confidence.
Six minutes later, though, United were back in front when Cleverley intercepted a stray pass and fed Michael Owen through the middle. The former Real Madrid forward – Barcelona fans won't have forgotten that fact – is usually lethal in one-on-one situations, and he made no mistake here, dinking the ball over Valdes to restore the Reds' lead.