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Stewart Coggin

Streets Ahead

By May 29, 2011

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Sometimes statistics can be misleading. These ones weren't. Barcelona: 12 shots on target, Manchester United: one. Barcelona: six corners , Manchester United: zero. Barcelona: 68% possession, Manchester United: 32%.

Barca won the final 3-1 to claim their fourth Champions League victory and third in six years. Ahead of the game, some were putting their case forward for a surprise United victory. Barca were tired they said. The match was at Wembley. United would have learned from the 2009 final in Rome when they were beaten 2-0. Those observers were wrong on all three counts.

In fact, statistically United fared worse on Saturday night. In 2009 they registered two shots on target, had seven corners and 47% possession.

Barring the first 10 minutes when United pressed Barcelona and worried them with a number of long balls, this was something of a procession for the Catalans who had at least one pundit on English television branding them the best side to have ever played the game.

Having gone ahead through Pedro, only to see Wayne Rooney's goal put a deceptive slant on the half-time score line, Barca ended comfortable winners after a fierce second-half strike from the sublime Lionel Messi and a sumptuous curled effort from David Villa.

This match again emphasized the need for Sir Alex Ferguson to buy a world class central midfielder in the summer as Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets dictated the tempo from around the 10th minute onwards. Busquets was superb, breaking up United attacks and feeding the ball to his two more creative comrades. Xavi barely gave the ball away all night and Iniesta produced more of the penetrating runs and incisive through-balls that make him one of the most watchable players on the planet.

Messi was mercurial, dropping deep and causing all sorts of havoc in front of United's overworked central defense. The goal to make it 2-1 was his first on English soil as he again made a mockery of suggestions that he does not perform against Premier League opposition.

Ferguson did not look angry at his team's demise, rather accepting of the fact they had succumbed to a truly unique side enjoying the most successful period of their illustrious history.

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Laurence Griffiths / Getty Images

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