Barcelona confirmed their status as the best side in world football with a thumping 3-1 Champions League final win over Manchester United at Wembley. Even United boss Alex Ferguson saluted the greatness of Pep Guardiola’s side after another wonder show from the Catalan giants.
Spanish World Cup winners Pedro and David Villa scored either side of a brilliant Lionel Messi goal as Barca ruled Europe after Wayne Rooney had sent United in on level terms, 1-1, at the break.
Fergie’s dreams of a third European Cup were shattered but in truth they never really looked like coming true on a night when the Spanish champions again dazzled with their poetic football.
“In my time as a manager it is the best team we have faced,” declared the honest and admiring United boss Ferguson afterwards.
“I think everyone acknowledges that. I accept that. It’s not easy when you have been well beaten like that to think any other way.
“No one has given us a hiding like that. It’s a great moment for them. They deserve it because they play the right way and they enjoy their football.
“They mesmerize you with their passing and we never really controlled Messi. When we got the lifeline of Wayne Rooney I expected us to do better in the second half but it wasn’t to be.”
Ferguson caused something of a stir when he left top scorer Dimitar Berbatov out of his 18 strong match day squad and decided not to man-mark Messi as United played their normal Premier League style of game.
The Scot added: “We tried to play the way we normally play. It’s alien to us to man-mark players; It wasn’t good enough on the night. We understand that and we acknowledge it and we can step forward from here.
“Great teams go in cycles and the cycle Barcelona are in at the moment is the best in Europe, there’s no question of that. How long it lasts, whether they can replace that team at another point, they certainly have the philosophy.
“Can you find players like Xavi and Iniesta and Messi all the time? Probably not. But they are enjoying the moment that they have just now.”
Asked about his squad selection when he picked Michael Owen ahead of the Bulgarian on the bench, Ferguson replied: “For Berbatov it was a difficult decision tonight.
“Picking my team I found easy, but picking my subs I found very difficult. I tended to overload the midfield positions because I thought that was the position that was most important.
“I gambled with just one defender on the bench to allow me to get as many options in midfield and wide positions. It was a choice between Michael Owen and Dimitar Berbatov and if you are looking for someone to nick a goal in the last few minutes you want Owen’s experience.”
Where does the term “the luck of the Irish” come from?